Jan 12

Working on the Book

Posted: under Characters, Craft, Horngard, Progress, the writing life.
Tags: , , , ,  January 12th, 2024

The first chapter of Horngard I is now tighter, cleaner, more direct, less allusive.  Starts in POV of major character.  Sets out the initial situation directly.  Introduces second POV character, hours later than the original start.   Better, in other words.  I’m now charging through the other chapters (agent had a copy I’d sent him in October; I’d lost my copies here, as you know, so it was seeing it very fresh indeed.)    Every place that my eyelids sag (before midnight; sagging at midnight is normal.  Right now I’m waiting for the dryer to finish with a load of wash that suddenly had to be done at about 10:30 pm.)

For instance, Gwennothlin Marrakai is taking her youngest brother Julyan on a trip and includes moving some horses from the Marrakai estate somewhere else.  I had, in the previous file, a sketch map of the journey, a timeline, a note of every horse, its name, its breeding, its color, its size.   Today I was reading along, early in that journey and they stopped for lunch and then…I spent most of a paragraph on the horses.  Not interesting stuff about the horses, not enlivening details that also show I know what I’m describing, but…she helps Julyan get on the horse she wants him to ride that afternoon, and in the process of that tells the reader (only some of whom will care) the horse’s name, breeding, color, and size.  Does any of this matter at any point in the story?  No. Does Julyan care?  No.  I found myself mentally staring at the 11 year old kid, who darn well ought to be able to mount that horse without help, and at the horse (which is not going to DO anything remarkable at any point!) and erased a paragraph.  After lunch they started off upstream on the trail.   It’s not about a mare named Daisy.  It IS about one of the horses in particular, but right now they’re going to ride south, upstream, day after day until they’re….never mind.  Lips are sealed.  THAT bit has details that matter.

More of that section–the travel–will also come out because it’s a separate sort of sequence that ties into the main sequence down the line.   “The Chainsaw of Correction…” is snarling in my ear.

On the other hand, I’m still very happy with the battle scenes.  Gritty.

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Jul 10

Another Story? Yes!

Posted: under Editing, Life beyond writing, Progress, Revisions, snippet, Story, the writing life.
Tags: , , , ,  July 10th, 2023

Writerly egos really do work this way.  Inspired by the review copy of DEEDS OF YOUTH,  I was able to finish the sequel to “Consequences” (last story in that volume) yesterday.  MUCH faster than I finished the first one of the pair.  Together they cover the entirety of Kieri Phelan’s first independent mercenary command.  The original version I wrote in the neighborhood of 35 years ago hasn’t been found, so I was reconstructing from my memory of it.   I’m sure it’s not an accurate reconstruction, but nobody else knows the original at all.  Ha.  What you’ll finally get, when the collection after the new collection comes out, is  all there is.

An ego-correction was finding out, while doing what I thought was the final revision, that I had *reversed two characters’ names.”  Between stories.  Within weeks of having re-read “Consequences”.    Yes, OK, I’m good enough to write an exciting story in less than two weeks, a story that involves blocking out a clash of militaries (size, location, terrain, opposing forces’ different weapons, mobility, background of military theory for each, etc.)  and collapsing all the details the writer then knows into just the ones the *reader* needs to know to grasp what’s happening, the sequence of events, the personalities and back stories of the POV characters, and fitting all that into less than 7500 words at most.   But I’m not apparently good enough to noticed that between “Consequences” and (its current name, this may change) “Unintended,”  Crown Prince G-‘s name turns into younger Prince H-‘s name.

All fixed now.  G- is back to being G- across the narrow temporal gulf between reading story C and writing story U.   Be sure that from now on in I will be looking harder when writing subsequent related stories to existing stories, and doing the name check *earlier* in the process.   First-readers of story U liked it a lot.  I still like it a lot today, having spent last night and today cleaning it up.  Is it spotless and shiny, all ready for its debut later?  I’ll know better after letting the resident Nitpicker at it.  Meanwhile, a snippet.

……………………………………….

“Get a horse,” the king said.  “A good one.”

……………………………………

Meanwhile, in the daily life stuff, it’s been very, VERY hot so I’m feeding horses later and later in the evening and today moved the morning feed up to “nearly all hard feed in the morning because it’s cooler and better for them.”

A US Senator (former football coach, whoop-te-do) is taking out his spite on the Department of Defense by blocking all promotions that require Senate approval and thus leaving many commands without a commander when the previous one reached legal retirement age.  Including my branch, the Marines, who are without a Commandant for the first time in over 100 years.  (And, dear friends, you really truly do not want to leave the Marines to their own devices without a solid command structure.  You don’t want to leave ANY military that way, but we have particularly…strong…well…our nickname with at least one other branch is Uncle Sam’s Misquided Children, and our reputation is “If you want something absolutely totally destroyed, call in the Marines.”  I, of course, am now a sweet old lady, perfectly harmless except for the razor edge on tongue and pen.

I called said Senator’s Senate office today and gave a brief and non-profane description of his misdeeds (this is only one of them; the guy’s a raging racist and a contributor to the J6 insurrection) before calling on him to resign.  He won’t, of course, but this is what I can do legally, for now.  Let him know he’s not the strong noble hero he thinks he is but a pissant southern neo-Confederate who broke his oath of office, tried to overturn the government, and has pissed off a Marine veteran.  At least one.  Sure there’s more.   I’m feeling that the Senator, who never served in any branch, should perhaps contemplate the effect of Marines minus a complete command structure on something closer to his heart than the rest of the country, since he doesn’t care about the rest of the country, just his billionaire donors and the white folks in his home state.  Needs to be reminded that the Senate doesn’t command the military.  That’s an executive function, and it needs a whole, unbroken, chain of command from POTUS on down to the lowest level just-out-of-boot-camp E-1.

So I think I need to call his office *daily* with things he clearly doesn’t know, and needs to know, about the real, serious, deal it is to stand in the way of the Marines having a  Commandant.  His name, in case you don’t know it, is Tommy Tuberville, and he pronounced it TUBBER-vill.  Wouldn’t want to say a Senator’s name wrong, would we?  (Rubber-Tubber?  Flubber-Tubber?)  I leave the cussing out to the senior NCOs, who are superb at it (an art form, once they’re up in grade)  and recommend that former officers and lower grade enlisted just list any four or eight of his “errors” as politely as possible within the need to make it clear what a [redacted] he is.

 

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May 13

Progress In Multiple Dimensions

Posted: under Life beyond writing, Progress, the writing life.
Tags: ,  May 13th, 2023

Recovery from fall…much better.  Some stitches out, others will be soon.  Only one scab chunk left, but it’s starting to itch.

Both R- and I have new machines that are up and running;  new headphones that are more comfortable with better sound (so we can each enjoy our own favorite music, You Tube sites, etc.) without bothering the other.)  (Yes, it’s luxury.)   The complete tech overhaul is well along; there’s still some more stuff (I still don’t have a new printer; the Faure Requiem is still stuck in old machine’s CD drive, the RAM upgrade wasn’t accepted by new machine, data recovery will, I hope, pull all the old photos off old machine’s disk, but we’ll see.  But the improvement so far is MAJOR.

I’m working on some new material related to Horngard I, still uncertain if it will fit in Horngard II or be pulled out into a separate story/novella.  Happy with the feel.   I didn’t lose consciousness, even momentarily, in the faceplant, but I hit hard enough to be stunned (still sore places on bones that met the sidewalk) and there were little blinks of “not there” time from the 4 hours in the hospital, which after the effect of the 2018 concussion had me worried.  Not now.  I’ve read some seriously technical material  in two different journals and understood it fully and the writing itself tells me the brain’s healthy…or at least functional.  2018-2022 showed me I can’t write coherent, hangs-together fiction if the brain is seriously upset.  In fact, in 2018, I could barely write a coherent paragraph describing a current activity at first…so being able to write about merchants on a journey is reassuring.

Now it’s feed time for the critters.  We had an inch of rain we very much needed last night.

 

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Apr 07

It Would Be a Cover Reveal, Except…

Posted: under Collections, Deeds of Youth, E-books, Life beyond writing, Progress, the writing life.
Tags: , ,  April 7th, 2023

…I don’t yet have permission to reveal it, and I can’t figure out how to make it show up in an email (did a test with a friend…got the link but it did not work)  and clicking on the image itself, with this computer, doesn’t yield the “copy image” choice.  It just enlarges or goes back to the other size.

What cover? you ask.  The cover for Deeds of Youth.  Tara, the designer, found a really good green-leather background for it, that will go with the dark red of Deeds of Honor.  Cover uses the same font for the title, the gold stuff is all gold just as it was, and between the change of title and a II  added to the line “paksenarrion world stories” people should not confuse I and II.  When I get permission to share, and when I have loaded Paint Shop Pro into this computer so I can play with images in the software, I’ll post it.  I like it a lot!

Meanwhile, the busy (but not organized) brain has worked out why King Mikeli’s being so stubborn about something in Horngard I, and who can unstick him a couple of weeks earlier, thus not having a long, long stretch that my agent thinks is dull for readers rather than tedious for one of teh characters.  Of course Dragon’s quick idea to mmph the ;ukmph into the xzllz is still a bit of a problem….and creates other problems, which is always good for the plot unless it convinces readers it’s totally impossibly stupid and a creature like Dragon would never think of it.  (Oh, yes he would.  Did.)

Will there be other exciting news over the next few weeks?  Probably not, but not *certainly* not.  Agent is headed for the London Book Fair later this month for a couple of weeks of connecting with his foreign (to us) fellow agents in Europe and getting their input.  He’ll be at the Nebulas in Anaheim not long after he gets back.   I’ll be working on that little blobby bit  in Horngard I and also posting more.

 

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Feb 18

Deeds of Youth: Off to NYC

Posted: under Collections, Deeds of Youth, Life beyond writing, Progress, the writing life.
Tags: , ,  February 18th, 2023

The seven stories of Deeds of Youth have been combed over and checked again and again; the two that were serialized here have had a few minor changes made.  One has never been “out in public” yet.  Those three (two seen in the blog, one never) will get a professional polish from a copy editor; the other four, suppposedly (I HOPE!) clean enough copies are as they appeared in the anthologies.  I’m hoping Agent agrees to use the same basic cover design with the new title and the background in green “antique-leather) behind the gold lettering.  I do not yet have a release date, but I expect to have the date within a few weeks (that’s how it happened last time) and it should be out this year for sure.

Back to working on Horngard I.

Between the ice storm, the aftermath of the ice storm (heavy rain onto the melted ice) , some power outages and a total failure of plumbing, the past few weeks have been hectic and requiered a lot of “adjustment” to daily life.   Having both toilets nonfunctional for a week + days, and the septic tank having to be pumped, and such…not the most fun in the world.  But we’re lucky that it’s now back together and functioning.

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Nov 07

Onward With Horngard II

Posted: under Horngard, Progress, the writing life.
Tags: , ,  November 7th, 2022

With Horngard I with my agent, Horngard II is up for some work, even though I have Other Things that must be dealt with.  Over the weekend (M-‘s birthday weekend, so less writing time, in addition to struggling with a computer/printer difficulty and a .pdf file difficulty) and today, Horngard II has gained 4000 words without excessive effort or loss of sleep.  I hope it continues to behave like #1 and roll itself out in front of me.  And if it doesn’t…I’ll cope.

Right now (this instant) it’s at 17,289 words and 81 pages.   The words before about 75-100 pages are very…fragile, vulnerable to alteration or even abandonment later.  For a middle book, in particular, as I expect this one to be, there’s a lot of mist and fog and not much to see from the beginning, which is back down from the height the first book reached.  Characters are alive, vivid, full of themselves right now.  Story itself is eager to get to the next “good stuff,” but in that hurry is quite capable of running madly ahead and off the cliff into a nasty ravine of “it never happened, go back and write something different.”  That happens once a book at least anyway, so though I don’t LIKE it, it’s not a really serious problem.

So Horngard II is alive, moving, has withstood its first long interruption (when working on agent’s suggestions, and all that suggests it will follow its older sibling and continue to grow with its own vigor.

 

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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:

 

 

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Oct 16

And Next….Horngard the Second Has Begun

Posted: under Good News, Life beyond writing, Progress, the writing life.
Tags: , ,  October 16th, 2022

So all the stages of revision (the big three) got done and in the process of the last one I realized that I’d lost something somewhere…cut & didn’t paste, and since I’d chosen “cut” the something was long gone lost.  I’d have to write it again.  Which I did one day this past week and I like it better than the first version.   Then I went on with the spit-polishing of the surface and finished that Friday.  Yesterday morning, Saturday, I was primed for a day of loafing–or at least working on other things like having actual *space* in the study, nothing on the floor (!!!) instead of the Useful Books now there, along with the many not-useful things.

But wait!  Something was stirring.  Something had hold of my brain and was yanking at me.  “Come here!  Don’t do that!  Come HERE and sit DOWN and put fingers on the keyboard and get going!!!”

And out came…the start of NewBook II or Horngard II.   “But, but, but,” I stammered.  “I have other things to do!  I need to go do this, and go do that, and go do the other thing, lots of things have gone undone since I started NewBook I!”

And the book said “Nonsense.  Keep going.”  Ten pages later that was it for the day.

It’s not even noon yet and another ten pages has appeared in the file.

“But I have to do these things…”

“No, you don’t.  Shut up, quit arguing, and get going…this train is leaving the station, toot-toot-toot, and you’d better be on it or be sorry.”

“But I haven’t heard back from my agent, and shouldn’t I wait until…?”

“NO!”

“But there’s a weather change and it might finally rain and I need to spread seed, and…”

“NO!”

You know what’s really, really, really fun…is the feel of being on a fast-moving book with the story pouring into your head and out through your fingers.  Even if you’re eating unhealthy food, your neck hurts, your finger joints are beginning to burn, one leg’s going to sleep…it’s really, really fun to have live characters doing their thing right there in front of you, and the book’s  plot daemon prodding you in the ribs: “Hurry up!  Get that bit—right there–that’s good, keep going, don’t stop, yeah!!!”

I do have to go feed horses their lunch, even if the book’s hollering at me.  I’ll be back.  How many pages today?  I have no idea.  What’s going to happen?  I have no idea except that I’ll be spending time in this chair and more Story will be in the file. and I’ll be grinning at times and tapping my foot and thinking how very lucky I am in some back corner of my mind while the rest is occupied playing all the instruments in the orchestra at once.  Hooyah!

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Sep 27

It Keeps Going…and GOING…and GOING!!!

Posted: under Progress, the writing life.
Tags: ,  September 27th, 2022

Besides the outside stuff that’s happened. the book has decided that it needs more in it.  Like “How DOES Gwennothlin get a dozen horses from here to there without being robbed or killed?” and “Yes, but what about those two cohorts of Fox and quarter cohort of Golden…you can just have them pop up like mushrooms in the middle of the battle!!” and “If Vladi has been to Horngard in the past–distant past–back when it was occupied by the former kings (one or more of them) shouldn’t HE know where the lower entrance is?  Wouldn’t he tell the people he’s traveling with?”  and “Who’s behind the sudden problems in the Royal Couriers?  WHY are they abusing their horses and dropping like flies in the past year or so.  Who made these bad decisions?” and “What’s with Dragon??”

That’s why I *thought* it was slotting nicely into the 150-155,000 word size until the past several days.  Tonight it ran right over the 160,000 barrier as if it wasn’t there.  And there are several thousand more to go.

It’s after midnight and I need sleep badly and am making typos every other word, so I’ll have to come back when I can and add snippets and more explanation.  Apologies for brevity.

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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.

 

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