Nov 24

Kieri’s First Command: Part X

Posted: under Background, Characters, Contents, Excerpt, the writing life.
Tags: , , ,  November 24th, 2022

Part X

One evening, coming out of the daily conference, Duke Marrakai asked Kieri to walk with him.  “The lad’s different.  I thought he’d sulk and complain and you have him smiling and cheerful.”

“He’s a good boy,” Kieri said.

“Sometimes,” the Duke said.  “And sometimes I’ve wanted to put a knot on his head.  You have no children, yet, do you?”

“No, but I watched Aliam Halveric and his wife with theirs, and I remember them with me.  I ignored your lad’s sulks and treated him as a sensible person, which he’s turned out to be.  I’m going to put him back on his horse tomorrow.”

“Well.  You should have a horse.  You ride very well and you know horses. And apparently, boys.”

“I will have again someday.  Someday, I want one of your breeding.  That horse is the best I’ve ridden.  Aliam had a halfbred of yours.  Tell me, what do you charge for the fullbred colts?”

The Duke looked at him squarely.  “They don’t come cheap.”

“No good horse does, but by accident. I will have one someday, and you can tell it will be treated well.”

“Indeed.  The Prince says he’s thinking of giving you that barren mess up north as a grant, if you do well in this campaign and another one or two.  No one else has wanted it, at any price or reward.”

“It would suit me,” Kieri said.  “In time it would thrive, with good management.  Hard at the start, of course, but are not the best horses often those difficult to train well early on?”

“You are not afraid of challenges.”

Kieri laughed.  “No, my lord, I am not.  Challenges come to all, early and late, and Aliam taught me that the measure of men is how they meet them.  Let me have some land, or a young horse–”

“Or a young boy?”

“I cannot speak of your son in such terms; he is yours, and a future Duke of Tsaia.”

“Well.  I see him as a challenge; he has been for me.  And I like what I see, Captain.  Teach him to ride better, and care for horses better, and we shall be friends a long time.”

“If you knew Aliam, my lord, he would tell you tales about me at your son’s age that would curl not only your hair but your horse’s tail.  If I am able to help him through this, I am happy to do so.”

Later that evening, the boy said, “We should not have done what we did.  I should not have done what I did.”  None of the boys had spoken to Kieri about it before but there was no doubt what the boy meant.

“You’re right,” Kieri said matter-of-factly, setting the stallion’s saddle on its rack.  “But you did, and it’s done, and you’re not doing it now.”

‘No, but I…I needed to say that.  I’m sorry I did it.  I’m sorry I spied on you.  I’m sorry…”

What would Aliam say to that?  What had Aliam said to so many of his own unwitting cruelties, blunders, thoughtless deeds, including those that got men killed?

“Listen to me,” Kieri said.  “You did something you knew was wrong, and you know that some things cannot be undone.  You can’t forget what you saw, can you?”

The boy’s head shook side to side; his eyes glistened.

“So when I was your age, and Aliam Halveric’s squire, I did things I knew I should not do, and some of those things could not be undone.  Men died, for some of my mistakes.  To be good men, when we are grown, we must learn to think.  Beyond what feels good, beyond what feels like fun, beyond what feels like it will win us points: we must learn to look ahead and think.  And it’s hard.  You have learned important things in these days: about your horse, about me, about yourself.  Now you know you can learn.  And I know you will learn.”

“Will I make more mistakes?”

“Oh, yes.  If you’re like me you will make mistakes over and over.  Men do.  Women do.  Everyone does.  It’s how we learn.  When you started riding, you fell off a lot, didn’t you?”

“Yes.”

“So as you move into adulthood you will continue to make mistakes, and when you don’t make any mistakes at all, you’ll have made the worst, because you’ll have quit learning.  Keep learning, keep failing, but then go back and get it right.”

“I don’t think I’m ready to ride my horse again.”

“Why not?”

A mischievous grin this time.  “Because I’m still making mistakes here, walking.  Because my horse shouldn’t suffer for them. Teach me to ride your way, please, and show me by riding him yourself.”

“Now that will require your father’s permission: who’s going to ask him?”  Kieri grinned back at him.

“I will,” the boy said, with no hesitation.  “I will, and he will say Yes, and then he’ll tell me he told me the horse was too much for me in this situation, and I’ll say he was right, and then he’ll say I can ride his old horse, his second.  We can ride together.”

The End

Happy Thanksgiving

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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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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.

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Jul 26

Milestones Whizzing Past…

Posted: under Background, Contents, the writing life.
Tags: , , ,  July 26th, 2022

The New Book is now at 82,000+ words and still going strong.   It’s feeling like a “long” book, more like other Paks-world books and less like the SF books, which usually finished up around 120,000 to 130,000.   The Paksworld books, as y’all know, run 150,000-plus.   I can’t tell yet if it’s actually going to be multi-volume or not, but it keeps gaining “weight” (and so am I as I write it…which isn’t good, but I’m not going to strangle this book for the sake of dropping a size of jeans! )   Minor characters are acquiring the kind of backstory that could mean they’ll be more important in a subsequent book.   Locations are waving signs at me saying “Important things happen here!  Right here!  Look at this terrain–you’re going to need it!”  There’s another pregnant woman in this story and it’s summer and she’s uncomfortable because she may (or may not) deliver by the end of her husband’s part in this book.   She’s not major (yet; she has potential)  but her husband is a plot-mover by position;  he’s also just a wee bit OCD about some things (they don’t have OCD in their vocabulary but you know what I mean.  He wants to get everything exactly, precisely, to the nth degree right.)  There’s a horse with a problem, a family with several problems, a Marshal Judicar who remarkably learned some humility between the last book he was in and this one (he, like everyone else, is older, but I didn’t expect him to do that; I thought he’d be crustier.)  I will admit that my own once-broken ribs ached in sympathy with those of  a character hanging over a pit,  and that childhood experience in crawling along a ditch under thick vegetation plus seeing real hedges in England resulted in someone having to crawl along close under a hedge while enemies were searching for them on the other side.

So far there’s not enough food in the story (may be why I keep eating while writing??)    There are horses and a few dogs, a fire in a hay barn, weaponry including hay forks, lances, poles, sticks and stones, swords, daggers, crossbows (no longbows yet), and chamber pots.  Blame a little book in Fondren Library at Rice U., which I checked out over and over; Welsh Ballads ed. Ernst Rhys had a poem about a medieval wife who defended the home fort when her husband was out raiding, driving off the intruding force with the amount of stuff she and the other women threw down on the attackers.  It ends with a little praise of the husband’s fighting skills, and then says:  “but better still than Ievan, Ievan’s wife!”  Cities, yes.  Towns, yes.   Places where villages were, but haven’t been for years.  Ruins. Locations known by what used to be there (still common in rural areas–we were once given directions to someone’s house that included “turn onto the road just past that pasture where [name if person who used to live there] had that big paint bull.”  Roads in several Texas counties weren’t given numbers for decades, even now some are known by the name of the ranch at the end of the road (Greenwood Valley Ranch, for instance, in Real County.  That’s ree-AL County, and it means “royal.”)   That road wanders through two other ranches before it gets to Greenwood Valley where there’s a little airstrip in the narrow valley and hills all around.  Anyway, Old Forge had a forge once, and was a village, but now it’s a wide spot in a grass-and-dirt road where the Woods Way ends.  More-or-less south of Old Forge, the road meanders on, and eventually through, Serrostin lands, and more-or-less north it crosses the River Road between Verella and Fin Panir.

So far, the story’s working toward the second meeting of two characters, and this volume may end with that.   But there are floating loose ends that may bump into one another and lock on.   Where’s Dorrin, these days?   Is Torfinn still king of Pargun or did he die, and if so did his youngest son inherit or….?  Ganlin of Kostandan married the king of Tsaia’s cousin Rothlin Mahieran,  but what about Elis of Pargun?  Arcolin’s adopted son Jamis has turned out to have a gift for languages, and speaks gnomish better than Arcolin…and has also learned the horse nomads’ language…ability like that doesn’t exist for nothing; he’s going to have an interesting life one way or another, besides inheriting his father’s lands.  Will he also become a gnome prince?  Or…um…find a horse nomad girlfriend?    In the back corners of my brain, where the shadows are and shy little mouse-like ideas come out at night to see if they can find some cheese and grow bigger, there’ve been some high-pitched squeaky discussions of Old Aare, which isn’t just barren sands and heat anymore.   People are starting to sail over to take a look; some ships (not the largest) even dare to venture into the great bowl that was a shelter for multiple harbors at one time, and look at the plants now growing in the shores and the wild animals and think about moving in.

Meanwhile…it’s late and I need to write more tomorrow.

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Sep 18

Things Change, Things Move

Posted: under Collections, Contents, E-books, the writing life.
Tags: , ,  September 18th, 2014

The short fiction collection has a new title:  Deeds of Honor.  Remember how I said the cover design for the short fiction collection was tentative?    It was indeed, and that design has now vanished from mortal ken (well, not exactly…) and a new rough has been shipped out for work.   You’ll see it when it’s done.   Some things will be the same, and some things won’t.   The stories are in the hands of those who will prepare them for the collection.   I am alternately working on new fiction (not ready to talk about it yet) and the head-notes for the individual stories, which I should have done in another day or so (the new title has suggested changes in the head-notes.)  Read the rest of this entry »

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Feb 28

Paksworld Politics

Posted: under Background, Contents.
Tags: , ,  February 28th, 2014

Many forms of government have existed, and now exist, in our world…many forms of government can be depicted in fiction (including ones we haven’t yet seen in reality, like, um, a completely fair one.)   Epic fantasy is frequently criticized for having monarchies and aristocracies  (and the writers thereof accused of romanticism about the Middle Ages.)    So a reasonable question is “Why are the political systems in Paksworld what they are?”

And the answer is, “I studied history at Rice under F.S. Lear and K.F. Drew and C. Garside.  That explains everything.”   And I see a row of stubbornly frowning faces in front of me, with thought balloons over their heads saying “That explains NOTHING.”  And I’ll bet the stubborn faces would still have those thought balloons if I added, “OK, there was also prehistory and cultural anthropology…” Read the rest of this entry »

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Feb 26

Paksworld Plumbing, Part II

Posted: under Background, Contents, Life beyond writing.
Tags: , , ,  February 26th, 2014

The historians and archaeologists among you know that plumbing–its existence, variations, quality, and effect on human health (both good and bad)–is highly variable throughout history.    Elaborate systems for providing fresh drinking water, for instance, existed in time (and within a short distance) alongside the simplest, least effective ways of getting water to drink and a place to put your waste.   This allows fantasy and science fiction writers to play with the co-existence of different kinds of plumbing, and different attitudes towards what we now call public health issues.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Oct 18

Paksworld Food Basics

Posted: under Background, Contents, Life beyond writing.
Tags: , , ,  October 18th, 2013

So…Paksworld’s northern kingdoms are more like Europe north of the Alps, in terms of what they grow and eat, and Aarenis is more like the Mediterranean countries.   But there are variations.   Paks’s family had a small amount of land under plough,  for grain and the few vegetables they grew; they also harvested field herbs, wild berries,  and some wild grains.    The nearest mill was a considerable distance away, so her family ground grain to make bread in hand mills (stone.)   Grain was also cooked into a mush, flavored with herbs and sometimes meat.   They were lucky in having good-quality hand mills that didn’t put a lot of stone dust in the meal, so they didn’t have their teeth ground down. Read the rest of this entry »

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Aug 06

Crown Molding

Posted: under Contents, Crown of Renewal, the writing life.
Tags: , ,  August 6th, 2013

A terrible pun, true.   But also true that revisions consist of more than pulling out the Chainsaw of Correction.   Sometimes revision means noticing that the arm of the statue is on at the wrong angle…and remodeling, molding it, until it looks right.  Both Agent and Editor found things to say about Crown of Renewal that pointed to the need for more remolding than chainsawing and clipping (though those did occur.)

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Jul 27

Help the Author

Posted: under Contents, Crown of Renewal.
Tags: ,  July 27th, 2013

In the first book of all–Sheepfarmer’s Daughter–there is a comment about the colors worn by Sofi Ganarrion’s cavalry troop and by Vladi’s polearms company.   I can’t find it.   I thought it was in this chapter…then in that chapter…it’s just a casual mention, but…where?   I know it’s there, but I have conflicting notes from another time…and I’m writing a side-story from Crown of Renewal that involves a cohort of Ganarrion’s people, and need the colors.  (If the editor likes it, that story will be in an anthology called Shattered Shields, coming out from Baen.)

So I’d very much appreciate it if someone who’s got the time could  answer that.

In the meantime, revisions are almost done (somewhat slowed by needing to get this story out of its snit and finished.   I’ll post about its intransigent nature later.)

Comments (26)