Nov 14

Kieri Phelan’s First Command, Part 2

Posted: under Background, Excerpt, snippet.
Tags: ,  November 14th, 2022

 

“And yes, Gerry spent a campaign season studying something military with them down in Aarenis a few years ago, but that doesn’t explain it, really.”

It didn’t explain anything, Kirgan Marrakai thought.  As Kirgan, he could attend the daily briefings.  His father had a seat at the table with the other senior nobles, the lesser standing behind them, while he–and other kirgans–stood silent, backs against the canvas wall, supposedly learning something from watching their elders give way to the Prince and this stranger, this mere Captain Phelan,  who had the Prince’s ear when it came to matters military.

Well, he was a professional, after all.  A hireling soldier, fought for money: not honor, not loyalty.  Rumor, gleaned from servants, was that the man had squired for Aliam Halveric in Aarenis, that he had attended the Falkian equivalent of the Bells.  But he displayed no ruby.  Had he dropped out?  Been thrown out?  Had Halveric refused to hire him?

Arrogant young cock, thought Kirgan Marrakai, seeing the back of the man’s head tilt toward the Crown Prince.  And nothing to be proud about.  Couldn’t even keep a horse.  Probably rode as badly as any farmer’s brat.  He amused himself that afternoon, imagining how his own stallion, who regularly threw him, would throw the arrogant young cock faster and harder.

The army moved slowly, leaving plenty of time for the young men of noble families to amuse themselves with sport: hunting and arms practice and mounted competitions.  They had servants to set up and take down their tents, cook their meals, care for their horses and their clothes.  They were–barring the arms practice all their fathers insisted on, under direction of an armsmaster or Girdish Marshal–on holiday.  When they came to a tributary of the river behind them, flowing from the north, the army paused to water the stock and the people, and some of the servants went to washing clothes.  The younger men found places for water play.

Kirgan Marrakai noticed that Captain Phelan let his men take quick baths, but did not bathe with them.  Arrogant, he told himself.  He bathed every day from a tub in his father’s tent, water brought in by his father’s servants, the proper way to bathe.  He told his friends.

They noticed the red-headed captain–hard to miss that flaming hair in the sun–heading still further upstream, with a rag of some sort over his shoulder.  Too shy to bathe with his men?  Well.  It would be good sport to know why.  Maybe he…lacked something.  They sniggered over that delicate suggestion.  Maybe he was disfigured in some way not visible when he was covered neck to wrist and head to heel in cloth and leather or metal.  Perhaps he was a branded criminal and the Crown Prince would definitely need to know that.

They turned aside, walked fifteen strides back toward the army, and then back around.  He was out of sight; the stream here ran lower than the rest, and they headed that way, but at a distance, sure he could not see them, moving as quietly as dozen young men with no training could.  One would go ahead, bending low then taking quick looks, until he could see the red head and if it was moving, then signal the others.  Finally, their forward scout waved them down and forward, and they came crawling through the lush grass to where they could see a wider space of moving water.  And their target.

………………………………………………………………………………………

Comments (2)

Nov 02

Almost Done (Again)

Posted: under Horngard, Progress, Revisions, snippet, the writing life.
Tags: ,  November 2nd, 2022

The most difficult of the “fixes” to the book my agent suggested was the result of a decision I made after the first couple of tries at “braiding” the POVS  of multiple people in multiple places who arrive at a very critical point in time and space together did not work–left things choppy and confusing.

I elected to put all of one POV group first and all the second POV group afterwards.  And *that* didn’t work either, my agent said (correctly said, I insist.)

Fixing it has not been easy and I’m not entirely sure now that it does what I want (especially since it added words to an already long book to get the rearranged stuff eased in, smoothed, and feeling like they “grew in place.” )

It reads better to me, but then I’m the person who wrote it and screwed that up in the first place.

I have multiple charts, notes, and attempts at doing it piece by tiny piece…the mosaic has to make the overall picture that includes high anxiety in three groups of people and impatience and frustration in the fourth group.   Looking back over the previous books, especially the ones in series, I see that I started out writing *somewhat* simpler books (not shorter…my first was very, very large, but not as complex all over as this one.)   And as soon as I learned how to do something more technically difficult…whammo, there it was in the next book (or the same book rewritten on the fly.)

I swore after one of the Familias Regnant books that had 12 major POVs scattered across part of a galaxy, most of them going somewhere rapidly in a ship, and having to be at the right place at the right time to execute their plot effect here…and then there…and then…etc., that I’d never have that many  plot-critical POVs again.  Ha.  I don’t even count anymore.  Keeping track of them was exciting in the sense of juggling explosives while dancing on a high wire…now it’s “Here we go again.”

The difference in Paksworld is that lack of fast, easy communication between the parties in motion.  Who knows what when always matters, but when you have to remember that there are no links, no phones, no computers, no satellite navigation aids…and then allow for “normal” weather patterns and the effect of them on unpaved roads traveled by humans on foot or riding animals or being hauled in wheeled vehicles by same…it’s…tricky.  No clocks either.  No longitude & latitude.  There are stars, but in a forest in the rainstorm, you can’t see them.

One more day of travel out of sight of the nexus point where all must come together.  One more day for those in the tunnel to endure…

Brahms’ German Requiem is the right music for this. I’ve tried other things but this (and the Faure Requiem for part of the earlier sections of the book) particular requiem carries the tension, the anxiety, the stark fear, the determination in the music itself and keeps me from sliding off into something easier to write.  The unearthly beauty of some passages also fits–around the story is a stunningly beautiful setting, dramatic in itself, inspired by and then developed from a photo I saw online years ago.   I moved a mountain range in behind it, added a plausible region of geology in front of it, and added the appropriate vegetation, then had the rockfolk go to work on it.

A snippet:

“Now,” Regar said, when he’d caught enough of the enemy’s cadence to be certain of the timing, and his men cut the ropes on their side.  The tower swung out away from the cliff all in one swoop, landing on the burning pinpigs, crushing them, and landing on some of the enemy who’d been straining to pull it down.  Fire spread quickly.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………….

If I haven’t mentioned the recording, here is is on YouTube:

 

 

Comments (5)

Oct 05

Finished, Sort Of

Posted: under Editing, Revisions, snippet, the writing life.
Tags: , , ,  October 5th, 2022

NewBook is now complete, where complete means the story makes sense end to end, the plot and subplots are correctly articulated (in the sense of how a skeleton is articulated), there are causes for effects, and effects from causes, and the motivations of POV characters, in particular are shown through behavior, not just chit-chat.  Though frankly I think any female person will know *exactly* why Gwenno was bored with the Royal Guard.

It is a proper Paksworld book in size  (a bit under 170,000 words)  and geographic scope (smaller than some, but covering locations from northern Tsaia, in Arcolin’s domain to well south and west of Valdaire in Aarenis.)  Chronologically it’s a spring/summer/fall book, even though there’s a blizzard in it.  It’s an *early* blizzard and melts back into a cold nasty wet period.  The gap between this book and the last previous Paksworld book is about 5 years, so the page who woke up, ran upstairs when everyone else was spelled, and pulled the non-working rope that wakes the Bells of Verella only in real disasters ….is now a late teenager  and considered a young man.  The prince with no memory is 20 or 21.  An 18 year old squire of Duke Verrakai is 23.  And so on, including the people who were hale and healthy five years ago and now…aren’t.  Some of them.

It also has horses, swords, spears, lances, thieves (not nice ones), brigands (ditto), pirates (ditto) ,  bad relatives, good relatives, an overprotected little boy who isn’t that little or shouldn’t be, a birth, some deaths, and–because it involves the Matter of Horngard–Dragon.  Several assumptions about eldest girls in a family.  But also politics, economics, history, psychology, and such things.  Oh, and a song.    Sung in an ordinary way and people who also make weird scary noises some other way.

Someone on a Twitter writing group asked people who were writing things  “What is your book about?”  and I always draw a blank on that because I think my books (and most books) are about more than one thing, and different readers will fix on one or more of the possibilities.  But this book–still untitled, though its “barn name” is Horngard, name of the place in which a lot of important things happen–is a story about friendships as people grow up, trauma, memory, honor, personality, politics (et al) from the above list, and so on.   The “lead” characters are two boys (in the Paladin’s Legacy books) who became friends, were separated by violence,  and their meeting again 5 years later.   One has lost all memory of his past due to a traumatic brain injury.  The other temporarily loses the memory of having seen his friend again, for the first time in five years because someone else thinks it’s the wrong time for them to be together again.  Now the boys are men.

The loss of memory, whether temporary or permanent, has profound effects on them.   It interferes with “agency”–that capacity to make things happen, to not be just an object swept along, but to make decisions that work, that move other objects.   If you do not know–if you have no story of–your past, it’s a mental amputation of the information most of us use to make decisions and act from.   I remember the first time I was lifted up to sit on a horse; I remember how wonderful it was to be up there, able to see so far,  to not be blocked in by the legs of older children and adults.  That memory starts the chain of my understanding of how I feel about horses.  I remember being in an open boat out in the Gulf of Mexico and peering over the side into the green depths…seeing something large rising out of the dimness far below and come up closer, closer, and reveal a mouthful of very sharp teeth.  That memory starts the chain of my understanding my relationship to deep water.   Horses are wonderful, they’re freedom, they’re lifting me out of limitations.  Deep water is scary, dangerous, limiting me to less vision, less freedom, less opportunity.  These are not “facts” about horses or deep water, but the memories are at the roots of my attitudes, my deepest feelings.

Soo…what about a snippet, then?  And a test on it?

Here are the words of a song (translated into English because I write in English) which can be sung to the tune of one of my favorite songs.  The song itself was not, originally, English.   Can you figure out from reading the words what the music is?  (Don’t go looking over in the Universes blog because it’s listed there.)   These words appear in this book (unless an editor rules them out) and I hope to write some music to sing it to *other* than the one I know.

Dragonkin we stand before you

Dragon’s iron wings fly o’er you

Dragon’s iron teeth will score you

We will stand for all

 

Though we tire, though we hunger

Though we grow not any younger

We will stand as stone in thunder

All will stand for all

 

Men of Horngard ready

We will all stand steady

Taste the iron of our spears

Your swords will never wake our fears

 

Our hearts lighten, our eyes brighten

Blood or death, they do not frighten

We of Horngard, Dragon’s kin,we!

Never will we yield.

 

If you do catch on quickly, just answer with “Got it” or something like, until others have a chance to answer.

I can’t find on YouTube the version I like of the original, which was a capella, not over-enhanced with orchestra  or even piano accompaniment.  It doesn’t NEED that.  It does need a good stout choir.

Comments (15)

Sep 17

Snippets

Posted: under Contents, Craft, Editing, Progress, Revisions, snippet, the writing life.
Tags: , , ,  September 17th, 2022

Time for some snippets, yeah?

This one will not be in the final book….it is the original start of the book:

Camwyn had no memories of his childhood, only those begun in a dark cave, when he woke from grievous injuries.  He knew of his past only what he’d been told by Dragon.

…………………………………………………………………………………………….

This was followed by pages of past-history stuff and landscape descriptions that (aside from describing  a gorgeous view of the Vale of Valdaire and a good opening shot for the movie, maybe)  have nothing to do with the story because he’s never there again.   Also, there’s no tension.  People who’ve read the Paladin’s Legacy group know who Cam is, what his injuries were, and that he’s lost his memory.  People who haven’t will be thinking ‘How many pages of infodump before I have a reason to care about this character?”

Worse, the next person being shown is thinking about how disappointed he is that on his last trip over the mountains, there’s fog and he can’t see his favorite view.   Interior monologue with nothing happening but the fog lifting and a horse whinnying.  Ho-hum, ho-hum, the starting point is dumb…and then it goes into pages more of trivia that’s interesting to ME, because I was working back into this invented world, checking that Fenis Kavarthin & Sons were still in the building they’d been in that previous book, that this and that were in the right place and the right kinds of interactions were going on. Fine, for a book on the economics of merchant-run late-medieval cities, but this is supposed to be a story.

………………………………………………………………………………………..

So now we have the result of a complete mental reset:  When the problem is a static passage, nothing really going on, AND it’s in the POV of a known character who’s a protagonist…don’t whittle away at it hoping for something better.  Take a big leap.

The blade lay lightly, but dangerously, on his neck, just under the side of his jaw.  “You haven’t paid your bill,” said the voice in the dark.

………………………………………………………………………………………….

The next sentence tells you who “he” is…Ilantides Balentos.   Those who’ve read the short story “Mercenary’s Honor”  may have a vague memory of an Ilanz Balentos who was Aesil M’dierra’s uncle and the reason she became a merc commander.   Ilanz in that story is a middle-aged merc commander who helps a village win independence from its greedy neighbor city, and when that city hires a much younger Aliam Halveric to attack, and Aliam sends out his squires to a recon mission, Ilanz meets Kieri Phelan for the first time.   Between then and now is a story of the young Aesil M’dierra and how she met Aliam and Kieri in dire circumstances–unfinished, still.  Maybe now I can write it.  Ilanz left his company (and some money) to M’dierra when he died.

This isn’t Ilanz; this is Ilanz’s much younger relative (and thus, more distantly, M’dierra’s relative.)  You don’t yet know who the other person, the voice in the dark,  is (and won’t, thanks to, ummm, errr, mmph, and mumble-mumble-writers-keep-secrets.)   But you know, every one of you, that you do not want that voice in the dark in YOUR bedroom, and you already suspect Ilantides may have a shady side.   You also want to know if the guy gets his throat cut and what happens next.

Does this 13 page segment connect to anything else in the book?  Yes, it does.  It foreshadows events already written some chapters later (and thus was easy to think of and write) that make other connections…and so on.   So when mmmrff happens, readers (the more astute ones) will be thinking “It’s those Balentoses!” while at the same time wondering if fffnnf can possibly make it out and can vlkksr get there in time.

………………………………………………………………………………………………

But remember the entire first chapter had problems of insufficient forward motion and insufficient tension.  Yet certain precursor things had to happen before other things could.  A had to meet B.  B had to not meet C.   D had to misjudge a situation.  And so on.  So what should come after that 13 pages that makes it clear the initial engine is putting tension on the same overall plot, getting the whole thing rolling?   Who gets the next POV slot, and why, and what do they do with it?

To keep the tension on, the next logical POV will be either the other conspirator or…another potential victim. The other conspirator has no further appearance in this book, as who he is, at least.  Readers are free to think he took part in a certain nefarious deed, or to think he was in another part of the same organization.  Doesn’t matter.  Another potential victim is already in the book, several chapters ahead, and was going to be in chapter 1 anyway, but from a different angle.  Well, then…make the next POV that of that potential victim’s POV and take a first look at Protagonist through that potential victim’s eyes…and at Balentos through that victim’s eyes as well.    Another big leap.

So the next POV is Aesil M’dierra’s but not in an exciting moment, though exciting moments are referenced, and a Significant Moment occurs in that POV segment when she walks into The Golden Fish and sees an obvious newcomer.

…………………………………………………………………………………………

She noticed a striking young man at the front window table, richly dressed in yellow and black over mail and–her experienced eye recognized the way the cloth laid over it–breast and back plate.

……………………………………………………………………………………….

Other necessary nubbins have been dispensed in this POV section before this moment, relating to the matters her cousins have kept bubbling on the legal stove, adding to the tension of *that* plotline, but this is where another and major plotline’s rubber hits the road.  The naive reader (the one who hasn’t read the previous volumes) doesn’t know who he is, and even the experienced reader–though perhaps guessing correctly–isn’t sure either.  The last black and yellow colors shown so prominently down here were–as far as readers know–on Siniava, the Honeycat.  Who IS this fellow?  Why hasn’t he doffed his heavy-weight armor, or taken the coif off his head?  M’dierra (experienced readers will know) knows every merc commander in Valdaire…this isn’t one of them.  So who and what is he, and what is he up to?   That’s revealed in their conversation, or the part of their conversation that’s shown, so the main direction of that plotline seems to be clear and straightforward.  The book is going to visit a place none of the previous books have shown, but that’s been mentioned a few times.

Another POV section is coming, which introduces two well-known characters from previous books but in different roles, and foreshadows (obscurely) a major road-block in the major plotline that’s just been shown, though the actual roadblock isn’t at all clear.  One of those two is the second, co-equal protagonist.  And Dragon, who, though a plot-mover, isn’t a protagonist, and gives readers the chance to question Dragon’s good will, sanity and, um, “wisdom.”   If humans have holes in their logic, and gaps in their knowledge, how is it possible for a creature of such length of age and vast experience and desire for all to be wiser…to be so blind to certain things?  Why isn’t Dragon the perfect deus ex machina, instead of…well…fallible?  Or are the humans just misunderstanding the nature of the beast, so to speak?

But that would be telling, not showing, says the mischievous writer, running off to work on other chapters.

 

Comments (9)

Aug 06

One Hundred Thousand (and 688)

Posted: under Contents, snippet, the writing life.
Tags: , ,  August 6th, 2022

Words, that is.   I hit one hundred thousand words on the new Paksworld book just after 1 am yesterday morning.   Celebratory snippets follow (not the same snippets as in the Universes blog on the main site, BTW.)

1) Camwyn, who has forgotten his past before the injuries that required healing by Dragon, has a great deal more to learn about the world.

Camwyn rode back to the city thinking about what she’d said.  Dragon had said nothing about a Company of Camwyn, about “dragonkin,” but M’dierra did not feel like a liar.  He wished he knew exactly what she meant, who they were, what their rules were.  Paks and his other tutors had taught him about beliefs, about familiar heroes: Gird, Falk, Torre.  They had not mentioned a Camwyn, though if Dragon’s name was also Camwyn…but Dragon had said his name, his real name, was too long for humans to say and known only to the high gods.  “In my disguise as a man,” Dragon had said, “I use Sir Camwyn, but very seldom.”  He’d liked it–liked it now, in fact–that the name Dragon had given him was kin to that name.

2) Aris Marrakai, meeting a Royal Courier from Tsaia on the bridle path of the Guild League Road between Foss and Ifoss.  The courier asked Aris if he was the third son of Duke Marrakai, for whom he was carrying a message from the king, as well as messages to Duke Arcolin.

“Yes,” Aris said, immediately thinking of his father. Had he died, then?  “Your horse won’t make it to Ifoss faster than a walk, in this heat.  I can ride faster and have a mount sent back for you.”

“No!  You give me your horse! ”  The courier sneered at him, rage and contempt in every line of his face, his voice loud.  “Of course it’s hot! It’s the summer, it’s the gods-blasted South!  But the king expects his couriers to travel at a gallop.   I have the king’s authority to requisition horses from any Tsaian.   Hurry up and get off.  You can pamper this lazy nag all the way to Ifoss at a creeping walk if you want to.   I don’t have the time.” From the corner of his eye, Aris saw heads turn on the Guild League road itself.

“This isn’t my horse to lend,” Aris said, keeping his voice level with an effort.  “It’s Duke Arcolin’s, one of his own chargers. There may be one on the road over there you could hire.  Some caravans–”

“I don’t care whose horse it is! I order you, in the King’s name!  Get off that horse and give it to me!”

3) Gwennothlin Marrakai, now a member of the Bells and just resigned from service in the Royal Guard because of her father’s ill health (and her own boredom), demonstrates her investigative talent faced with the reluctance of the king and her own older brother to tell her why Juris’s marriage may be delayed and what is really going on.

“Thank you,” Gwenno said.  “Now that you are no longer my commander, but still are my liege, and in consideration of the family emergency I mentioned which has to do with–very likely–the succession to duke of my brother here, and thus the status of everyone in the family, I ask you to tell me truly what you and Juris are talking about.  I am quite capable of keeping secrets, as Juris knows from the secrets I kept for him.  I’m sure he remembers.”

Juris flushed a deep red.  “Gwenno!”

 

Keep in mind that all these are in first-draft status, which means that the wording of incidents, as well as incidents themselves, could–and likely will–change a little by the time the book’s finished and the revisions are done.  But all three of these (and the incidents in the snippets on http://elizabethmoon.com/blog/ should be in the final book in some form.  I think.

Comments (8)

Jul 12

The Dun Mare’s Grandchild 3

Posted: under snippet, Story.
Tags: ,  July 12th, 2016

When he had the flasks full; Oktar splashed back to hand them up.  His feet were bruised by rocks, aching from cold.  His grandfather looked down at him.  “Drink one swallow.  Then give flask. Catch your horse.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (10)

Jun 26

The Dun Mare’s Grandchild, Part Two

Posted: under snippet, Story, the writing life.
Tags: , ,  June 26th, 2016

As light revealed the land around them, Oktar knew they were north of the town, riding north, winterwards as the horsefolk said, and the reason he hadn’t been able to feel the rein was that he had none–his grandfather held Oktar’s horse’s rein as well as his own in his one good hand.  The horses moved at a brisk walk, ears forward, alongside a stone wall with sheep on the other side of it.  Oktar turned to look behind.  Nothing of the town showed but a blur of smoke in the distance.  Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (6)

Dec 31

Happy New Year

Posted: under Cold Welcome, Life beyond writing, snippet.
Tags: ,  December 31st, 2015

Though it’s tempting, in the current state of the world, to follow that up immediately with “As if…” actually I do always hope that tomorrow, next week, next month, and a New Year will see changes for the better.   And sometimes it happens.  Sometimes there’s a breakthrough, not only in science or technology, but in the hearts of individuals…and then those individuals’ internal breakthroughs propagate through those near them.  Not always, but sometimes.

What I hope for all of you reading this, in the coming year, are those inner changes that bring you closer to the person you were meant to be: a person with agency, a person with dreams and goals so exciting that you break through whatever has held you back (if anything has; some of you are full steam ahead already.)   I hope for all of you an environment that enables your growth.  Friends that care for you, and you for them.  Health, physical and mental, and health care for those times when health needs help.   Mentors, and mentees (if that’s the word): people who help you expand your lives and people who need your help to expand theirs.  Beauty, whatever beauty is to you–a view, a particular mug, a flower, a color that lifts your heart whenever you see it–indoors, outdoors, everywhere.   Enough of what you need, whatever that is.   More than enough, of love.

I am grateful for you, for others, for the natural world, for the cultures that lie behind us.  This world, this–as one of our prayers says–“our fragile island home.”

Let 2016 begin on the stroke of midnight in whatever time zone you’re in…but a new year begins every day.   May it be a good year for you. Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (7)

Apr 30

Over the Hump…And a Snippet

Posted: under snippet, the writing life.
Tags: , ,  April 30th, 2015

NewBook is now over the hump in rough draft, having crossed the 60,000 word midpoint for this book.   Its first 40,000 words or so have been reworked to improve characterization (which will lead to smoother progress later on. )   It’s unusual for me to have the mid-book slow-down due to characterization problems, but so it was this time.  I expect another slow-down period transitioning over the 2/3 to 3/4 finished problem area, but–if I fixed the characterization problems–that one will be plot related and usually means a mistake made between now and then.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (13)

Mar 30

The New Book: First (I think) Snippet

Posted: under snippet.
Tags:  March 30th, 2015

The new book, having slowed down to take a deep breath in medias res, as it were, with some brainstorming, more research, and hard thinking going on, has now reached 280 manuscript pages (some out of order) and is moving again–though the Holy Week services and car problems will slow it down again this week and I have a house guest next week.  Still.  Moving along, new ideas flowing.   So I think it’s time for a snippet that may or may not survive later editing.  (This is the first, very rough, draft, after all.)

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (13)