Thursday, July 28, 2016

ArmadilloCon this Weekend and VOTE FOR SHEILA GILBERT

Folks, tomorrow I'm running the Writers' Workshop at ArmadilloCon, plus I've got the rest of the con to prepare for, and six billion other things to do.  So all you're getting from me today is a reminder of my schedule and an impassioned plea, for those of your who are Hugo voters,  that Sheila Gilbert should get your vote for Best Long Form Editor.
I've spoken about it twice before: here and here.  I'm, of course, incredibly biased on this subject, but I truly believe she is a fantastic editor who is incredibly deserving of this honor.  I know in her packet she did her best to show this to you, giving samples of the wide diversity of the books she worked on in 2015.  I'm thrilled and privileged to have a sample of The Thorn of Dentonhill included in that packet.  I think she's worked tireless to not only make better books, but to put a wide variety of sci-fi and fantasy books on the market and keep them there, to give writers like me a chance to tell our entire story. As much as she gives valuable insight and wisdom, she still makes sure that it is our story that we get to tell.  Readers have gotten to know Veranix thanks to her, as well as Inspectors Rainey and Welling, and soon you'll get to meet Asti & Verci Rynax.  I'm so grateful that she has been the advocate and champion for my work, and making my work the best it can be.
As always, if you have specific questions about Sheila and her role as my editor, I'm happy to answer them.

Monday, July 25, 2016

ArmadilloCon Schedule

Hey all-- This week is ArmadilloCon, and I've got plenty of things to do before the con, including final prep stuff for the workshop and sending off proofs for An Import of Intrigue.  And I've got quite a packed schedule this year, which makes me happy.  If you're in the area-- or can get there easily-- you should definitely check it out.
Writers' WorkshopFri 9:00 AM-4 PM
Harry PotterFri 9:00 PM-10:00 PM Ballroom D
Benjamin, Frank, Jacobs, Maresca, Swendson*, WilsonNew novel, upcoming 20th anniversary of publication of Sorcerer's Stone, etc
Sat 11:00 AM-11:30 AM Southpark B
Marshall Ryan MarescaI'll most likely be reading a selection from An Import of Intrigue.  There may also be breakfast tacos.
Portrayal of Law Enforcement in SFFSat 1:00 PM-2:00 PM Ballroom F
Cole*, Maresca, McKinney, Moyer, Rogers, SarathDo people get it right? What does getting it right look like?
Attack of the SequelsSat 2:00 PM-3:00 PM Ballroom D
Johnson, Klaw*, Maresca, Moore, Sisson, SullivanAll of this year’s big budget movies were sequels. Implications.
Writing What You Don't KnowSat 4:00 PM-5:00 PM Ballroom D
Chu, Drayden, Leicht, Lynn, Maresca, Thompson*Panelists will explore the challenges of writing fiction from viewpoints other than your own, and talk about how to do it well.
Time Travel StoriesSat 8:00 PM-9:00 PM Southpark A
Gibbons, Jewell*, Maresca, Porter, SchwarzWhat time travel SF do we love? What are the pitfalls? What are the rules for telling time travel stories that work?
Horror Movie "Scene It" Game (ADULT)Sat 10:00 PM-11:00 PM Ballroom F
Downum, Fotinos*, Maresca, Perez, Thompson**ADULTS ONLY** Horror host Professor Griffin will host a game show in which participants watch a scene from a horror movie and then answer a series of questions follow. The scenes contain nudity and gore and may offend some.
AutographingSun 11:00 AM-Noon Dealers' Room
Bennett, Maresca

Thursday, July 21, 2016

I Learned to Write Novels by Doing Theatre

I believe that I'm somewhat unusual amongst fantasy/sci-fi writers, in that I cut my writers' teeth as a playwright.  Coming at writing novels from a theatre background gives me a different perspective on writing than most people, especially since I was also an actor.
I'm not going to pretend that, as an actor, I was much above "competent".  My presence onstage would not be a detriment to your show, but that was about about the extent of my skills.  So, many years ago, in my acting days, I was in an excellent production of Julius Caesar, playing "Citizen #4".
For those of you unversed in the specifics of Julius Caesar, after Caesar has been murdered and Antony turns the public against the conspirators with his "Friends, Romans, Countrymen" speech, the public goes a little nuts.  Thus, four citizens are hungry for some blood, and they know one of the conspirators was a senator named Cinna.  They find another guy named Cinna, and proceed to beat the snot out of him, because that's good enough.  Citizen #4 gets to explain the logic behind that:
As an actor with only a small bit to do, you do try and make the most of it. Why?  Because it's who you are in that moment.  I was never a method actor, but I always took to acting with the idea that there's more going on than just your lines.  I recall this advice from Michael Caine*, talking about what a director told him when he was in a small part.  The director noted him and said, "What are you doing right here in this part?"  "Nothing, I'm don't have anything to say."  "Of course you do," the director said.  "You have amazing, brilliant things to say.  You're just deciding not to say them."
Doing this kind of acting crystallized something for me when I was writing.  I can't, as a playwright, write a part that would be no fun for an actor to play.  And as a novelist, whenever I write a character, even the most minor ones, I can't help but think about making it at least a little more interesting than it, strictly speaking, "needs" to be.
In Thorn of Dentonhillthere's a bit where Veranix runs into two mounted constabulary.  These two cops (or "sticks", to use the street vernacular of Maradaine) could have been just Cop #1 or Cop #2.  But where's the fun in that?  These are still two guys who got up that day, put on their uniforms, got on their horses and went to work.  These are two guys who work at night, as partners, in a tough neighborhood where most cops are in the crime boss's pocket.  But not these two.  These two are a couple of guys who have each others' backs and do their best.  These two guys would be the heroes of their own story.
Conversely, in Holver Alley Crew, at one point I jump to the POV of a character who hadn't appeared before and doesn't appear again, partly for the fun of seeing one of the main characters from a completely outside perspective.  She has her own problems and concerns, which have nothing to do with what intrudes upon her.  Her reality gets affected by the main story, but it stays her reality.  And, if I may say so myself, it's a fun bit.  It's more fun than had I written it from the main character's POV.
*- This was in a lecture he gave on video, it's not like he told me directly.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

An Import of Intrigue: Writing My Favorite Secondary Character

Folks, in a few months my fourth novel, An Import of Intrigue, is coming out.  
FB Banner Import
I'm very excited for this book, and it was very fun to write, in part because I got to do more with my favorite secondary character in the Constabulary cast, Corrie Welling.
Corrie is Minox's younger sister, and she's just as dedicated to a career in the Maradaine Constabulary as he is.  But she's also still early in her career, and facing a bit of an uphill climb being a woman who actually serves in the streets-- as opposed to taking the clerking desk position that her cousin Nyla works.  So she works the shift she can-- horsepatrol on the night shift.  "Working the dark", as she calls it.
She also swears in ways that would make a sailor blush, at least in terms of Maradaine's own unique forms of profanity.
Corrie really gets to shine in An Import of Intrigue.  In A Murder of Mages, she is mostly just some extra color.  In Import she's elevated to a point-of-view character, she becomes integral to the plot.  
Corrie is, of course, one of the many reasons why I'm thrilled with An Import of Intrigue, and hopefully all the fans of the Constabulary books will be pleased with where their story goes.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Heinlein's Five Rules to Get Published

If you go to workshops-- especially SF/F related workshops-- or otherwise seek out Writing Advice, sooner or later you're going to hear Heinlein's Five Rules for getting published.
The rules are pretty strong, solid advice, but to a degree they have more bearing on a short-story market than a novel market.  So I'll go over the five rules over the next few posts, and how I've integrated them into my process.
You really can't argue with this, right?  If you want to be a successful writer, writing is a given.
But what does this mean, in terms of actual action?  Here's how I see it:
A. You must know what you're writing.
B. You must know how you write.
C. You must work with discipline.
Now, for the first part, knowing what you're writing: apply this as broadly as you want, but I think you need to know what your general plans and intentions are.  Of course, things can get away with you: you can start writing a short story and discover a novel.  Or you can start a novel and find it's only a novella.  But the point is you've got to have some sort of plan when you sit down.
This ties directly to the second part: know how you write.  Which is very different from "know how you think you write".  For example, I'm a big outliner.  This is what works for me, and I learned that through a process of discovery.  I did a whole lot of, "I'm going to write and see where it goes" and where it went was nowhere slowly.  Another example: I'm not a writer who can do the "just get it written, and then fix it in editing" thing.  That isn't to say I don't edit or make a lot of changes when I do, but I see a rough draft as a foundation, and if I'm not building a strong foundation, it doesn't work for me.   Another point: I get the most creative in later hours, usually after 10pm.  I've accepted all these points as how I work best, and I've thrived by accepting that.  So the advice I have there is: learn how you write, but look very critically at if that's really what works best, or if it's how you think you ought to work best.
Finally: write with discipline.  Once you know what you're doing and how you do it best, sit down and get on it.  "Write every day" is good advice, but it doesn't necessarily apply to everyone (see point B).  But this is what I've found effective for me:  when I'm working on a project (in rough draft), I set a daily writing goal.  This is a low-balled goal, a minimum quota.  This is the, "Fine, you've earned the right to eat today" amount of writing.  It's a C-.  Now, many days I will write more than that quota-- and going over quota doesn't give me slack the next day.  But by keeping that quota low, I keep myself from getting in a shame-spiral of failure.  Because I know how work, and if I "get behind" on even an arbitrarily set quota, part of my brain says, "We can't do it" and shuts down.
And before I learned properly how I write, I would do that to myself constantly.  I would set an Unreasonable Writing Goal (I would even call it that to try and spur myself on), and then kick myself for not reaching it, and the whole thing would stall out.
To which I say, yes.  But a qualified yes.
Of course you have to finish what you're working on.  An unfinished story-- especially an unfinished novel-- is nigh-useless unless you get hit with exceptional circumstances, which are not something you can count on.
But here's the ugly truth that is sometimes hard to face: not every project is worth finishing.  Sometimes you're just going down a blind alley, and continuing to work on it is the equivalent of flailing around in the dark instead of finding a light.
So here's the qualification: You must finish what you write, unless you determine that finishing it is wasting your time.
HOWEVER, "wasting your time" is a LOT different from, "This is hard and I want to work on the shiny new thing I came up with".  Like I said earlier write with discipline, and that means pushing through the hard work to the other side.  And every one of the finished projects that I have shopping had that fallow period were the process of writing felt interminable. 
There's a difference between smashing your way through the brick wall, and smashing your head against it.  The really hard part is figuring out which one you're doing.
And most important, if you don't finish one thing that you write, you're not finishing that so you can finish something else.  Because, yes, you must finish before you can move on to the next step.
Now, this makes it sound like Heinlein is talking about not editing your work at all, which I don't see as the case.  Editing your work falls under, in this case, the Second Rule: finish the work.  A rough draft that you've typed "the end" on is nice, but it isn't finished.
But at some point, you have to decide it's done, and further fiddling isn't serving any purpose beyond feeding your own anxiety.  So the advice is less, "You shouldn't edit your work" but, "If you keep picking at it, it'll never heal."
So you have to reach a point of acceptance with the work, where you stop seeking one more bit of beta-reading approval, where you think if you just re-do this one part it'll be right, and then the full scope of your genius will be clear.  But are you really making it better, or are you just rearranging the furniture?
And, again, this is a point where you have to do some triage of your own work.  Are you constantly fiddling because it really is salvageable, or because you don't want to admit that you've invested too much into it already to put it in the trunk?
That's the dark side of this advice: some works, you have to stop messing with and decide to send it out into the world.  Others, you have to stop messing with and put it away forever.  Either way, once you reach that point, you have to stop poking until someone gives you a really good reason to.
So, now you've written something, you've finished it, and you've stopped fiddling with it.  This can only mean it's time for one thing:
This rule ties into the third rule a lot.  Because when it comes down to it, you've got to push the baby bird out of the nest and see if it's going to fly.

Because everything you've done up until this point is darn well useless if you don't.  They aren't going to beat a path to your door to see if you've concocted some brilliance that they might want to publish.
This includes the ever painful act of querying an agent, which may be the most dreaded act a writer has to face.  But let me tell you, querying in and of itself is pretty easy.  It may almost be too easy.  It's so easy that many agents receive over 500 queries a week.  However, a good portion of those queries are more or less the equivalent of shouting baboons hurling their feces at an agent.  So you've got to work extra hard to make your query be the thing that can be noticed above the din of baboon screeches and feces.  There are only two steps to accomplish that:
1. Follow the submission guidelines.
2. Write a brilliant query.
Step one is very, very easy if you just pay a modicum of attention.  Do not get lazy or sloppy with it.  Every time.  Or you might send a query addressed to "Dear ".
Step two is harder, I won't deny it.  Research query letters.  Polish the hell out of it.  This is the calling card for your novel, and you need to make it as strong as possible, clean and concise.
Concise is a big thing.  I've had the opportunity to read many query letters, and many times I see-- especially with genre-- writers who want to explain EVERYTHING in the query.  It really isn't necessary.   You want to entice the agent to read the book, not summarize it.
Also: avoid negativity.  Especially in regards to a. the genre you're querying and b. other writers in that genre.  Apparently this sort of denigration ("Sci-fi is stupid, so I wrote a better sci-fi novel which will blow everyone away.") is common.
Heinlein gives his Fifth Rule as such:
So, here's where Mr. Heinlein and I must part ways, because I don't fully agree with this rule.  For one, I think it's already intrinsic to the Fourth Rule-- you need to put stuff out there, and it needs to stay out there.  Sure.  So in part, I'm not too keen on this rule because it's redundant.  But also, on some level, I think it's bad advice.  You've got to be able to recognize when it's time to put something in the trunk.  That you might be doing yourself more harm than good flailing a project out there that's well and truly flawed and unsellable.
The other big reason I'm not on board with this rule is it doesn't feel like the next proper step in terms of discipline.  "Put it out there" is energy.  "Keep it out there" is inertia.
So what's a better rule to show what one needs to do in order to move on to the next level?  If I may be so bold:
This makes a lot more sense to me.  You've pushed your baby out of the nest, and regardless of what happens with that, you've got to make something else.  Something new.
And I must stress the 'something new'.  I fully understand the temptation, but you shouldn't go headfirst into 'Book Two' of whatever you're shopping.  Put down notes, draft an outline, have a plan?  Sure.  Yes.  If my experience is typical, if you get interest in the book you're shopping, you'll be asked for plans for possible books two and three.  So having those plans is good.  But leave it at that.
Whatever you really work on next needs to be something whose sale is not dependent on the sale of the thing your shopping.  Because then you're building a whole house of cards, investing more and more into something you might have to through in the trunk.  And if you invest that much, you're going to become more and more petrified in letting go.  Move on. To something new.
It's hard.  It's supposed to be.  Tom Hanks will tell you why.
Go get to it.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Perils of the Writer: Getting Your Politics into your SFF

I don't usually bring up real-world politics here.  I might be something of a rare bird in this industry, in that I'm on friendly terms with people with vastly varying political leaning.  People who I disagree with, even vehemently.  And don't get me wrong, I do love occasionally getting into it, politically speaking, as long as it's a good argument, and not just yelling, "You're wrong!" back and forth.
Partly, I don't bring up politics because-- especially within political things that cross with SFF writing-- by the time I know something is going on and people are talking about it, someone-- usually Scalzi, Wendig or Hines-- has more or less already said what I feel, and said it better than I would have.  We don't need another white guy going "Oh, me too, because my opinion is important!"  I stay out of it because you don't need me to weigh in on it.  I will if asked, but otherwise, I'll just listen.
However, I mostly don't talk about my personal politics here because it really doesn't reflect on what I write.  Even Way of the Shield, easily my most "political" work, doesn't necessarily reflect any specific political view as "right" or "wrong".  In fact, if any eventual reader does take a specific political message from it, that's more a reflection of their read than my intent.  But if they find something, great.  Subtext is best when it's unintentional.
But some writers aren't like that.  Some wear their politics right on their sleeves, especially in their work.  And that can be great.  Or it can be horrible.*  But I'm kind of the opinion, if you want to write that sort of thing, that's what opinion columns in the newspaper are for.  As fiction, it tends to be uninteresting.
And some wear their politics so proudly, it becomes their public persona.  That's your right, of course, but Freedom of Speech only prevents the government from shutting you up.  It doesn't stop people from thinking you're a jerk.
But let's not confuse politics for behavior.
Because there are plenty of people-- people on the far left and far right, frankly-- who gleefully act like assholes, and then when called on that behavior, use their political affiliation as a shield.  "Oh, you're coming after me because of my beliefs!"  Terms like "witch hunt" are used, because it's easier to hide behind that, make yourself a victim, instead of acknowledging: hey, I'm acting like an asshole.
It's so much easier to act like you're being persecuted.
But if you act like an asshole-- and believe me, I've been there: back in my twenties I'm sure I had some Grade A moments-- people will and should call you on it, and it's disingenuous to say it's because of your politics.  You know why?  Because I know people with the same political lean who aren't assholes, so it's clearly not some sort of obligatory behavior based on political opinion.
I am all for people wearing their politics on their sleeves.  And put it in your fiction.  Have your fiction be a full-on polemic; rip your political opinion off your sleeve and shove it down my throat.  Politics I agree with, politics I don't agree with.  Go full out.
So, without pointing fingers or getting into too many details, here's two things that have stood out to me:
1. I've noticed that the kind of people who are complaining that SF is "getting too political" and "politics shouldn't enter into it" are the very same people who can't seem to make a blog post or Facebook entry without being highly political, including actively attacking people who don't have the same politics.
2. People who complain about having to be "politically correct" tend to be people who want to be jerks.  Let me tell you a secret about "political correctness".  Do you know what it really is?  It's not calling people something they don't want to be called.  That's it.  If doing that is something you've got a real problem with, then you should take a look at yourself and decide what kind of person you want to be.  If the answer is, "I want to be a jerk and piss people off", then fine. Own that shit.  But also own the consequences.  Don't act like you can be that guy and also be surprised that you generate some ire for it.
So that's my main thing: talk the smack, if that's you want to do.  But don't be surprised if it smacks you back.
*- For the record, I've read fiction on both sides of the political spectrum that I've found eye-rollingly absurd.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Worldbuilding: Complexity in Politics and the Forces of History

It's a holiday weekend, and July is shaping up to be about ALL THE THINGS happening at once.  So today I'll pull out a couple worldbuilding articles from the archives, which happen to be Fourth-of-July relevant.  And relevant to some of the things I'm working on, especially since on of the ALL THE THINGS is a rewrite of Way of the Shield.  Happy Reunification Day!
As part of Way of the Shield, I've been delving deeper into the politics of Druthal.  In doing so, I'm taking into account the same thing I said about strawmen villains, but taking that to a macro scale.  Sure, it would be easy to break the Parliament into two sides, and say, "This side are the right-thinking heroes, and this side are the villainous morons".  But then you don't have a story, you have a screed.  If a screed is what you want to write, go for it.  Didn't hurt Ayn Rand's sales.  But that doesn't interest me.
Druthal is a Parliamentary Monarchy, in which I've played some mix-and-match with aspects from traditional monarchies, parliamentary systems and healthy dose of US-style democracy.  It's not a perfect system.  It's not supposed to be.  It's a messy, flawed sausage grind, and that's what I like about it.
The Druth Parliament probably has more in common with the US Senate than, say, the British Parliament.*   There are 100 members (Chairs) to the august body, 10 from each of the archduchies.  Each Chair serves a 5-year term, with no term limits.  Elections are staggered, so every year there are two chairs per archduchy up for re-election.  Chairs are ranked by seniority, so the 1st Chair of Acora is the longest-serving member from that archduchy, 2nd Chair of Acora is second-longest, and so on to 10th Chair for the newest member.
Elections are not winner-take-all, since two Chairs are available in any given election.  Once votes are counted and illegitimate ones are tossed**, the top two candidates receive the Chairs.   Since no candidate needs an actual majority to win a Chair, there are more than two political parties holding Chairs in the Parliament.  In fact, there are six.***
Now, in designing these six, it was very important to give each party a valid platform that people can believe in.  No one is "wrong".
  • Traditionalists (or "Dishers", colloquially) believe in the fundamental necessity of archduchies (and below that, duchies and baronies) understanding their own needs.  They want to maintain and strengthen the local authority of minor nobility; a baron knows his own barony better than anyone else, after all.
  • Loyalists ("Crownies") believe that Druthal needs to stand as a united nation, that a strong center, where everyone is given access to the same infrastructure, rights and opportunity raises the whole nation up.
  • Free Commerce ("Minties") believe that Druthal grows by trade and business, and by providing the means for commerce to thrive (including secure, easily traveled roads, well-protected sea-routes and minimal taxes and tariffs), the average Druth has the opportunity to succeed on their own merits.
  • Ecclesials ("Books") believe in the fundamentals of community and moral centers, and that the grounding the church gives serves the needs of the people, on a local level, far more than any well-meaning directive from the capitol.
  • Functionalists ("Frikes") do not hold to specific ideologies of "what is good for Druthal"-- what's good is what works; if it doesn't work, you don't keep grinding at it.  They do tend to believe that simple, small steps work better in the long run than grand, sweeping gestures, and that moderation is the key to functionality.
  • Populists ("Salties") believe that the people themselves are the backbone of Druthal, and that the core industries of day-to-day living (farming, ranching, mining, fishing, etc.) are the true center that everything is built off of.  By helping the people who do those things, all of Druthal is helped.
Now, in order to actually get anything done in the Parliament, of course, coalitions must be formed.  Loyalists and Free Commerce tend to vote together one way, and Traditionalists and Ecclesials tend to vote together the other way, and Functionalists and Populists tend to be swing votes.  In 1215, when Way of the Shield takes place, the Ruling Coalition consists of the Loyalists, Free Commerce and the Functionalists-- with the Frikes being the uneasiest of allies-- holding 53 Chairs.  Traditionalists and Ecclesials form the Opposition Coalition, with 41 Chairs.  The Populists do not belong to either Coalition, but with only 6 Chairs, they have the weakest voice in the Parliament.  However, since the Frikes are the least likely to vote with uniformity, the Populists can be a crucial swing vote on any given issue.
All of this, of course, is mostly the under-the-surface part of Way of the Shield; I've gotten more infodumpish here than I do in the actual text.  The important part, for me, is the shades of grey.  There is no these-people-are-right-these-people-are-wrong dichotomies.  I have heroes on both sides of the aisle, as it were, and villains as well.
And for me, that makes for a more interesting story.
*- This is mostly because I am American, and I'm far more familiar with our government than anyone else's.
**- Most common form of this tends to be people voting for someone ineligible; namely, someone who is already serving and isn't actually up for re-election in that cycle.
***- At least, six that have members in the Parliament.
We present the following not as a matter of law, to be debated by a council of lords or ignored by a monarch, but as a matter of truth: the rights enumerated here are not granted by government or ratification.  They are intrinsic to every man, ever person, be they born on Druth soil, traveled from the far edges of the world, or dragged to our shores in chains.  They are immutable, given to any infant from the moment breath is drawn.  They cannot be denied or removed or decreed away, either by the whim of nobility, or by the tyranny of popular ignorance.
Preamble to "Rights of Man"
Geophry Haltom, Maradaine, 1011
In my first pass of the history of Druthal, I establish 1009 as a key year, equivalent to 1776 or 1066 in terms of critical importance-- but at that point, I didn't give it significant details.  The set-up was that, for three centuries, Druthal had shattered into many separate kingdoms, and the whole area was plagued with war, inquisition and tyrrany.  By the beginning of the eleventh century, things were at their darkest.  A conqueror known only as The Black Mage* swept across the petty kingdoms, eventually marching on Maradaine in 1009.  He immediately executes the elderly king (Maradaine IX), placing Maradaine X on the throne as his puppet.  For two months of brutal oppression, the Black Mage held the city, until he was finally ousted by a combined effort of rebellion.  With Maradaine X also dead by the end of this period, his young son was named Maradaine XI, and with the help of his various advisers, he reunified Druthal as a Parliamentary Monarchy.
That was the rough draft; "various advisers" was something I needed to flesh out.  You can give an elementary school understanding of the American Revolution with just the Declaration of Independence, 1776 and George Washington, and that was pretty much the level of detail I had worked out.  But that wasn't going to be enough for what I needed.
I needed to rebuild Druthal, and of course that wasn't something that could just happen with the snap of someone's fingers in 1009.  Changing from a handful of weak monarchies to an elected body in conjunction with a monarchy would require great minds, and not a small amount of painful midwifing.  Messy and real.
This is where Geophry Haltom comes in: a city alderman who raised up a rebellion within the city to throw off the Black Mage’s occupation, and then encouraged the newly enthroned King Maradaine XI to form the Parliament, to ensure that the rights of the people would stay in the hands of the people.  In addition, he wrote "The Rights of Man", as noted in the preamble above.
Now, I know that I don't write with the eloquence of, say, a Jefferson, Hamilton or Madison: but in any worldbuilding one does, it's important to realize that beyond just the kings and wars, history is made by the thinkers, philosophers and scientists.
Since Way of the Shield is a political thriller, knowing those details about not only Druthal's politics, but its political origins is crucial.  Druthal didn't have Washington, Hamilton, Jefferson or Madison.  It did have Mikarum, Haltom, Jethiah and Inton, though.  It doesn't have the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution, but it does have the Rights of Man and the Articles of Reunification.  Understanding what those are, and more importantly, what those mean to the Druth people, gives me insight into the Druth political character.
*- A name I'm kind of torn on now.  On one hand, I like the simplicity of it; on the other, it's kind of on-the-nose Evil Overlord.  I'm open to changing it.