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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Nov 23

Kieri’s First Command: Part IX

Posted: under Background, Characters, Excerpt, the writing life.
Tags: ,  November 23rd, 2022

Part IX

“It’s a long story.  How much farther, do you think, and which will be first, your father’s wagon or the saddler’s?”

“The saddler’s.  Well, the Prince’s wagons of horse feed, tack, and his grooms and saddler will be there.  See that pennant?  That’s the royal one, so it’s one of those.”

The saddler, when they found him, had spare halters; they borrowed one.  Then he went to work quickly, explaining to Kieri–and Kirgan Marrakai, when reminded that this was the Kirgan’s horse–what needed to be done and why, and what exercises might help even out the muscling of the horse’s back.  Kieri and his student, as he now thought of the boy, walked along behind the saddler’s wagon with the horse, now tied to the tailboard, while the saddler worked in his shop, built into the wagon.

The boy now seemed less angry and fragile than he had earlier.  “Why is he using different colors of wool?”

“Let’s ask him,” Kieri said.  “You or me?”

Me ask?”

“Surely.  You want to know; I’d like to know.  You can do it.”

The boy did ask, and the saddler explained, even handing the boy small tufts of wool to feel: the dark, the light, the softest, the springiest.  Several times the saddle went on and came back off the horse, then the saddler said, “Now, Kirgan, time you get up and let me see how it compresses as you ride.”

The boy looked sideways at Kieri.  “If you don’t mind,” Kieri said to the saddler. “I’m a little heavier, and will compress it faster.”

“Oh.” The saddler looked back and forth at them.

“It’s all right,” the boy said.  “My father wants him to ride him for awhile anyway.”

“Ah. Well, then.”  He offered Kieri a leg up and then walked beside the horse, feeling under the saddle as the horse walked along, seemingly quite calm.  “Like you to give him a bit of trot and canter,” the saddler said, and unfastened the halter.  Kieri turned the horse out of the line of wagons and trotted him in circles both directions, then cantered, then a hand gallop both ways. The saddler checked again, made one more adjustment, then nodded.  “Should be good for today.  Bring him back to me tomorrow, after he’s ridden, or any time he kicks up again.”

“We’ve a walk to catch up with my group,” Kieri said.  “To keep our senior commander happy, I’d best ride the horse, but you can tail or use the stirrup leather if you like.”

“Tail?”

“Have you never?  When you have reason to move faster than walking is comfortable, and not enough horses for all, a horse can carry a light rider, and help along two more at least.”  He slid one foot out of the stirrup.  “Put your hand there, and see.  He will walk faster than either of us would want to.  If you were taller, you could hold onto the stirrup leather; right now it would make your shoulder sore.  You can also, going uphill, catch the tail and let one pull you along.  They won’t kick if the tail’s being pulled–smoothly, not jerking.  It doesn’t hurt them.”

The boy did that, and they passed wagon after wagon, until Kieri saw his troops again, and the prince’s wagons just ahead.  They slowed to match them, and Kieri said “It’s our secret, eh?  If anyone asks, you’re just good at walking fast,” and when the boy pulled his hand free, set his own foot back in the stirrup.  “I suspect many of your friends don’t know about the kinds of wool the saddlers use,” he added.  “Now you know some new things.  Here’s another.  Come meet my sergeant.  He used to be in Halveric Company in Aarenis and Lyonya.”

Over the next few days, the boy asked question after question, mostly reasonable ones, as if he’d been told before that asking questions was unsuitable.  Kieri and Siger–and several of the troops–answered as if he were any new recruit or squire.  Kieri, remembering himself with Aliam–at first afraid to ask anything and then, in a flood, asking questions all day long and into the night–found the boy far less arrogant than he’d thought earlier.  The boy was quick to take suggestions, and Siger treated him like a junior squire.  To Kieri’s surprise there was no sulking, no sneering, just a willingness to learn.  Why had he been so touchy before?  Had it been the other boys, or something else?

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Nov 22

Kieri’s First Command: Part VIII

Posted: under Background, Characters, Excerpt, the writing life.
Tags: , ,  November 22nd, 2022

Part VIII

Kieri knew that despite the acquiescence the boy was boiling with indignation: he had been humiliated in front of everyone by his horse, Kieri, the prince, his own father, and he was in no state to think clearly.  “Do you have a halter or lead for this horse, so we can take him to the saddler?”

“In my father’s wagon,” he said shortly.

“I don’t know which it is,” Kieri said.  Ahead of him, the Prince’s wagon lurched into motion and he turned to his sergeant.  “Sergeant, take over for the moment. The Prince has ordered we get this horse to the saddler.”

“Captain.”  Siger’s face was as blank as his own, he saw.  They were all on bog ground until they got the boy and the horse both sorted out.  One wrong step and they could be in it to the neck.  And no grant of land.  And a boy mired in helpless anger, and a horse mired in bad training, bad riding, bad saddle fitting.  He understood now, though he still wished it to have been different, Aliam’s refusal to hire him as a junior captain.  He pushed that aside and looked at the boy again.  “Can you take me to it–either your father’s supply wagon with horse tack in it, or the Prince’s saddler?”

“They’re both with the other horse supply wagons,” Kirgan Marrakai said, with slightly less stiffness.  “Back this way.”  They walked toward the tail of the line, the horse snatching now and then at grass.

“How old is he?” Kieri asked.  “Five?  Six?”

“Five.  He was backed last year by the trainer.”

“Still quite young, then.”

“Yes.  I thought–the trainer let me sit on him last year, because I was so light.  Then I grew, but he was a year older and also grew two fingers, so I thought–I thought I was doing well.”

“You grew taller; did your trainer explain what that does to your seat?”

“Taller?  I thought only heavier mattered.  That’s all the trainer talked about, how young horses should never carry too much weight.”

“That’s so, but when boys grow into men, they change the shape, where the weight is, as well as how much.  Where you can put your leg on a horse, how your balance changes when your shoulders broaden.  When did you start drilling with the sword you carry, instead of a boy’s shorter one?”

“Last winter; it was a Midwinter gift.”

“And have you done mounted exercises with it?  Knocking rag balls off poles?”
“Yes.”

“So you have more weight in your sword arm and as you reach out to do that, more weight shifts onto that side of the saddle and your horse tries to hold steady–with the muscles that are now developed more than those on the other side.”

The boy stopped short.  “I–I never thought of that!  The riding master never mentioned that!”

“And then after a few minutes it doesn’t feel good, so he hollows, to avoid the pressure–”

“Yes!  I know he does, and when I try to make him lift his back he bucks.”  He looked at Kieri wide-eyed.  “How do you know that?  Why doesn’t our riding master?  He just says ‘More leg, more leg, ride him into the bit.'”

“Did he tell you to wear spurs?”

“Yes. Because my legs aren’t strong enough, he said.”

“Um.  There are ways to strengthen legs, if you care to try.”

“You don’t have spurs.”

“I did.  I sold them”

“Because you don’t use them?”

“No, because I needed the money for something else.”

“What?”

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Nov 22

Interruption…Once More in Revision

Posted: under Horngard, Revisions, the writing life.
Tags: , , ,  November 22nd, 2022

NewBook I has had a partial read by Agent now, and I called to find out what his reaction was so far (about 1/3 through it.)   Still some concerns, things to work on, so I’m back in revision mode sort of,  hoping to also get back to work on NewBook II while it still has life in it, so I don’t have to revive it from coldsleep when NewBook I is deemed ready for its debut in the market.   NewBook I needs to read like the new beginning of something that it is, and now like the added-on “tail” of Paladin’s Legacy, which finished with Crown of Renewal.   Yes, there are carryover characters from earlier books…Aris Marrakai from Divided Allegiance for instance, as a young schoolboy in Fin Panir, right the way through Paladin’s Legacy where he’s a page in the palace in Tsaia growing older through those five volumes and developing a close friendship with Prince Camwyn Mahieran.  That friendship, and the future of both boys (Camwyn’s older by three years but they’re both too young to be squires, for instance)  is left in doubt at the end of Legacy, after Camwyn’s critical injuries from an iynisin attack and his removal by Dragon for a chance at life.

So far, Agent says, the first chapter or two of the book doesn’t feel like a new start.   And, of course, if it IS a new start, that means it’s a new entry point (potentially) to the entire story-universe for potential new readers, and new readers need  some background (can’t insult them with “You should’ve read the previous 10 books”)  without boring those who’ve read the previous ten books repeatedly and know exactly who all the repeat characters are.   The question of “simple straightforward “Here’s the background you may need” vs. trying to slot in 10 books’ worth of background without reducing the story proper to endless lumps of infodump” has been raised, and when raised in this blunt fashion makes it clear that “Background in the forward” would be kindest to all.  If it’s short enough.  (It’s also becoming clear to me that with this many books–and words!–in print,  there needs to be some kind of place where ALL the stuff new readers need is in one place.  I thought I’d done that–before even starting the Paladin’s Legacy group–in the Paksworld website, but it’s not working as well as I hoped, even considering that Legacy doubled the number of volumes and the wordage.)

So…once again into the breach to build the story-wall up so the whole thing is sound and will work for most (never all) readers.    No writer really enjoys the moment at which “Needs more work” (whether in those words or couched more gently)  is uttered instead of “Amazing, wonderful PERFECT in every way!!” but every writer with some insight knows that books (and stories) DO need more work more often than not, and that reflection will show how true it is that this one (whichever one you just finished) does in fact need more work.   (The same is true in every craft and art.  A choir full of really good singers still doesn’t sing a big piece perfectly at the first…or second…or fourth…rehearsal.  “Begin at measure 83, all the way to the solo…” and everyone suppresses a groan but then sings it better.  The best riders in the world on the best horses are told by their coaches “Need more work on your core, horse needs more work bending through the body to the [left/right], less rein and more leg.” etc.)

I will be more absent than present unless I have more news, which isn’t likely anytime soon.  Agent’s buried in work, and I’m about to be.   This is also posted in the Universes blog, for the benefit of anyone dropping by either location.

 

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Nov 21

Kieri’s First Command: Part VII

Posted: under Characters, Excerpt, the writing life.
Tags: ,  November 21st, 2022

Part VII

The horse walked over calmly as Kieri led it.  At the Crown Prince’s prompt, he pointed to the curb chain, which they agreed was correct, and then put it in the position he’d found it.  They nodded, then put it back.

“The saddle?”

“May I take it off completely?”

“Of course.”

Kieri showed the underside of the saddle, to all appearances, ordinary for a Tsaian war saddle.  But Duke Marrakai frowned and turned to his son.  “That’s not his saddle, is it?”

“No, sir.  His was being re-flocked and the groom said this one, Blink’s saddle, would fit well enough.”

Kieri laid the saddle on the horse’s bare back and felt under it.  “It’s wide enough and not too wide…this side has contact, no lumps.”  He went to the off side.  “It’s…my lord Duke, would you feel this?”

The Duke ran his hand between horse and saddle.  “Well.  Take it off; I’ll feel his back.”  Kieri took the saddle down, then moved behind the horse to look along the spine.  He could see what he’d felt. Uneven muscle development meant the saddle would pinch here where it did not on the near side.  “That’s why his own saddle was being restuffed,” the Duke said.  “And that–and the curb–is why he started bucking.”

“If there is a saddler with the army,” Kieri said, “He should be able to restuff this today, and then adjust after a ride.”

The Crown Prince looked at him.  “My saddler is with us.  But you, could you ride him without that?”

“I could, but it would be uncomfortable for the horse.  I can sit differently, take some of the pressure off, but not all.”

“Try.  A few minutes only; I want to see and so does the Duke.”  A sharp glance aimed at the Duke, who nodded.

Kieri saddled, accepted a leg up from his sergeant, and picked up the reins.  The stallion came up into his hand, flexing correctly; he could feel the horse react to a different seat.  Walk, easy.  Trot, no shaking head, no hollow back. Turn this way, turn that, halt, back.

“A short canter only, heart lead, I think,” said the Duke.  Kieri nodded, asked for it from walk, and the horse bent to it and bounded off correctly in the first stride, bent away from the side that needed a little more room. “Who taught you riding?”

“Aliam Halveric’s horsemaster and Aliam himself, when I was his squire,” Kieri said.  “And then, in Falk’s Hall, we learned saddle fitting and bitting as well as advanced riding.”

“Such as?”

Kieri named the figures they’d been taught.  “But this fellow needs more training before he’s ready.”

“Agreed.” Duke Marrakai turned to the Prince.  “I yield to your judgment, my lord prince.”

“Well, Kirgan,” the Prince said, turning to the boy, standing pale and miserable before them.  “This man you do not respect rode your horse better than you do, and with more concern for the horse.  What do you say for yourself?”

“I was wrong.”  The voice sounded even younger, choked even. “I–I trusted others and should have trusted my father first, to know I needed an older, quieter horse.”

“Well, then, I have a plan for you, so you do not waste your opportunity to learn.  You will not ride your horse for five days, during which its saddle will be restuffed and adjusted until the saddler’s satisfied, and during which you will walk with Captain Phelan’s cohort. You will watch the saddler do the restuffing, and he and Captain Phelan will instruct you in saddle fitting.  You will observe how Captain Phelan handles the horse, how he tacks it up, how he cares for it, and you will take over from him when he permits.  You will then–until we are within a league of the Pargunese border–listen and learn from him, what you may be doing as a rider that makes the horse uneasy.  It is my command that Captain Phelan report to me and to your father any errors you make that may injure this or other horses, and by the time we reach Pargun, you should be far advanced in your horsemanship.  Do you agree?”

What was there for a boy to say but what he said?  “Yes, my lord Prince.”

 

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Nov 19

Kieri’s First Command, Part V

Posted: under Characters, Excerpt, Story, the writing life.
Tags: , ,  November 19th, 2022

Part V

The next day, marching once more at the head of his company, dusty, unable to see farther than the Crown Prince’s entourage ahead of him, he was caught between annoyance and amusement at himself.  Who did he think he was, indeed–as he’d heard others say–he who did not know, could not name, either of his parents, or his place of birth or anything remotely respectable in his past until his arrival at Aliam Halveric’s home as a starveling.  How could any of these people respect, let alone admire him?

Yet here he was, with an independent contract, and the promise of a chance to earn–in good time–a grant of land.  He had seen it, even.  “Go take a look,” the prince had said.  “It’s empty, cold, near barren.  But it’s the largest area in my father’s realm not already occupied, or at least claimed. No one has wanted it.  No fields, no orchards, no towns: barren, some say, and too much work, say others.  Yet it is my father’s, and I would see it useful and well-governed.  Go see.”

And he had borrowed a horse–after the horse-master had checked with the  Crown Prince yet again, and given him, he was sure, the worst horse in the royal stables, gray about the muzzle and eyes, with splints in both forelegs and a hitch of some kind in the off hock.  He had ridden, at a pace that let the old horse loosen up and enjoy the trip, day after day through forest and hills, until on a wet day the view had opened to a broad plain with hills off to either side, a brisk little river…that might, someday, run a mill.  Hills on three sides, then, and a wide, presently soggy, plain rising slightly to the north, where it disappeared into a dank mist.

His mind produced an image of the mill on the river, near a town…here.  A bridge over the river, wide enough for wagons to carry supplies and troops to march. Another town over there–out of sight except in his mind.  He rode out onto the soggy plain: even this early in the year, it had grass the old horse was glad to eat.  And ample room for any number of troops to drill.  He could see it all: a big walled fort to guard the land and the track–that would become a road–to Vérella.  His mind built it quickly into what it could be.  A base for protection and for training.  Aliam’s home was crowded between a mountain and the dense Lyonyan forest of elventaig: this would be open.  Colder, yes, but then his troops would be fit to fight Pargun over there to the east in those hills, hold off the horse nomads, if any threatened.  His horse’s hoofprints and the grass showed that the land was fertile enough for grain.  And in the shelter of the hills the towns would have walled gardens and fruit orchards.

He rode back to Vérella, treating the old horse so carefully the horsemaster was amazed at the difference in the animal.  “He’s not limping at all–what did you do?  What poultice?  A special herb?”

“No, just careful riding, never fast and not too long at one time. He’s a good fellow, this one.”  He patted the horse and it rubbed its head on him.

And so the offer of a chance at a land grant had become a promise of one…in good time, which meant at the Crown’s convenience, but at least it would not be given away, he was assured.

Reason enough to keep his temper with those boys and their arrogance, reason enough to keep a smooth tongue to all.  Aliam would be happy with him, if he knew, but he was not minded to write Aliam about it, not until the grant was actually his.  Still the dust was annoying, and he did wish the nobility would not make it worse by galloping past him every time they wanted to come to or leave the Crown Prince’s presence.  If he’d had a horse–he’d sold his along with all the other gifts Aliam had given him to outfit his troops for this very mission–he could have seen over some of this dust.

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Nov 18

Kieri’s First Command, Part IV

Posted: under Background, Deed of Paksenarrion, Excerpt, the writing life.
Tags: , , ,  November 18th, 2022

Though Kieri Phelan, captain of Fox Company, was confident he had behaved well in the matter of raw youths spying on his bath–and just as glad it had not been a murderous attack by Pargunese soldiers–he was not at all sure the youths had really understood the magnitude of their error or his reaction to it. Of equal interest, a youth he would have expected to be with them…had not been.  Duke Verrakai’s kirgan, usually one of that group in the commanders’ tent…usually, in fact, standing next to Kirgan Marrakai and Kirgan Serrostin, sometimes between them…had not been with them.  Duke Verrakai and Duke Marrakai appeared to occupy a secondary level below that of Duke Mahieran, and slightly above Dukes Serrostin and Elloran.

A mercenary commander, Aliam had told him, must know as much or more about the power structure of employers as the employer knows about the commander.  You’ve met a prince of Tsaia, a future king, and he’s mentioned offering you a contract?  Pay attention whenever you see him among his nobles.  So Kieri had, and knew that Verrakai and Marrakai were rivals, and not friendly ones.  That Serrostin and Marrakai were friends, and Elloran was afraid of Verrakai.  That Kirgan Verrakai, whose father was not friends with Kirgan Marrakai’s father, had been cultivating Kirgan Marrakai for some purpose not yet clear, and yet…had not taken part in yesterday’s hunt.  Had the others told him?  Deliberately not invited him?  Or had he chosen not to go for reasons of his own?

He puzzled over this and the currents of ambition that swirled among the older men, not just the dukes but the counts and barons.  The nobles were not skilled at war of the type he himself knew best, but quite skilled at the methods of courtly intrigue, wielding small units of influence as skillfully as a man might use a small weapon–a dagger–to penetrate the weak points in armor. As in fighting physically, some were more direct and others more apt at ruse and guile.

Verrakai was certainly that kind.  For himself, he knew Verrakai deeply resented his having a direct contract.  His attempts to discredit the upstart mercenary were not so obvious as to catch the prince’s attention–always courteous, always mild, little corrections that weren’t, seeming deference to Kieri’s practical experience, but with little suggestions and questions that hinted at his concern Kieri–so young for such expertise but of course mentored by the famous Halverics–might not quite measure up to the task they laid on him. Under them, Kieri sensed both hostility and more military knowledge than most.  He had found the man annoying, but he found many non-soldiers annoying–a risk of his experience, Aliam had said–but now he wondered if Verrakai and his Kirgan were part of a coordinated attack…but on what?  The Marrakai family as a whole?  Or more?

………………………………………………………………………………

 

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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 03

And Gone Again (With A Bit of Characterization)

Posted: under Craft, Horngard, the writing life.
Tags: , ,  November 3rd, 2022

NewBook is off to the agent again.  It now has 34 chapters, and I did not regularize chapter length.  My brain was tied in knots last night.  I did some formatting cleanup and *think* I got all that straightened out.  Maybe.

The “gone again” reminded me that–without much if any spoilering–you might enjoy a bit of insight into how I approach characterization when a character has neurological or other physiological  differences.  You’ve seen the results in several books, but not the process of development.  Leaving aside The Speed of Dark, where I had daily contact with an autistic family member from birth to about age 18 when I wrote it, plus years of researching what was then known about that condition, it starts with at least some familiarity with the condition or a close relative.  For instance, growing up in “polio times” I knew both adults and kids who’d had it and were living in the community.  Also knew (over my life span) people who had severe loss of hearing (or were born deaf),  blind people, people with malformed or missing limbs from various causes.   My mother had had polio as a small child (and had post-polio syndrome as an older adult) and had told me about some of her childhood experiences and feeling.  Personally, I had sequelae from a bout of encephalitis that left one side weaker than the other, a temporary hearing problem, and (unrelated to that, I think) progressive vision loss through childhood.  So I had mostly secondhand, but a little firsthand, experience of various limitations of sensory, motor, and brain function.

As a future writer, this was great (though I didn’t know I would end up a writer other than hobby level.)   Everything is grist for the mill, ingredients for the soup, bits of character to aggregate into someone who never lived but feels like someone you’ve known for years.   How to show these things in fiction depends on the character’s place in the story (and the milieu.)   A minor character, a limitation or problem not related to the plot–just mentioning can be enough.  Or, if it’s not that conspicuous, not mentioned unless there’s an intersection with something where it becomes so.   A medium level character missing a limb, or blind, or paralyzed, has to be shown in a way that makes clear how that affects their life in that venue: what can they do and not do?  What are their days like?   The book may not be about them, but at that level they’re “onstage” enough that they have to feel real and whole as what they are.

With major characters, the writer needs to know more about how that condition affects most people with it, and what the range of emotional/psychological reactions is.  Whether this character’s condition was from birth or acquired–and when and how–and what elements of maturation may be tangled in the effects of the condition.  Does it affect socialization?  Cognitive capacity?  Physical strength or endurance?   Are those with it typically more or less cheerful than those without it?   This means more research, of course, and ideally the research will involve being around someone with the condition in more than an “interview for my book” setting.   The blind person you’ve been taking to and from choir practice (for instance) becomes the person who, over time, is comfortable explaining more about the experience of blindness, the little things that annoy or make life a little better.

In NewBook, the person with a serious problem is Camwyn, King Mikeli’s younger brother, who suffered major injuries from iynisin and was taken away by Dragon as the only way of saving his life.  We saw enough of this in Crown of Renewal to know that he was left with a memory deficit for everything but his life since he woke up in Dragon’s cave.  He was about fifteen at the time of injury: he has lost his entire childhood and part of adolescence.  He has, at the start of NewBook, been told little about his past, at Dragon’s insistence.  He knows he was a prince, that his brother is a king, that Dragon has planned to put him on a throne of his own.  He’s relearned walking, talking, reading, writing, weapons skills, riding a horse.   He’s been taught some history, philosophy, etc.–a Renaissance prince’s education, minus religion. But he’s missing what other people have–the narrative of his life up to waking in that cave (some time after the first wakenings.)   And we who have memory have that narrative, starting in early childhood.  We know what kind of person we are because we’ve “been there” with ourselves and the people telling us “That was mean!” or “You’re a good boy.”  We know what we did and how we felt about it, and how others reacted to it, and we build up from that our own version of our identity.

Camwyn starts this book at 20-21.  Physically adult.  Mentally competent–Dragon was able to reproduce a healthy chunk of damaged brain, but not to restore its content.  But in terms of psychological maturity–in terms of self-understanding–he’s got a huge gap, and as a result a lot of self-distrust.   He wants to know more about his life before the injury, but Dragon has kept him away from anyone who might tell him–he’s been “out in the world” but not anywhere near the Eight Kingdoms.  Cam wants to know that his feelings, his intuitions, his desires are normal-for-him.  That he can depend on them, as I  know I can depend on mine (including the “different” craving for chocolate I get sometimes is part of my migraine prodrome and that’ the time I should not eat anything sweet or chocolate, while ordinarily chocolate doesn’t kick up a migraine.)

At the start of this book Cam feels completely disconnected from his past–unlike me with my first memory loss (fall off a horse over a triple bounce) that cost me 45 minutes complete loss and partial loss for the next half hour to hour as I tried to find my way back to the city “by instinct”–Cam has absolutely no recall for the injury that started it or anything before it.  I had the fall itself, up to sitting up and seeing my instructor walking over.  It was a “waking memory loss” because (I heard later) she helped me up, I helped catch the horse, got on, rode the rest of the lesson (which I do not remember at all), and “came to” sitting on the horse in the cool-down period.  I was able to reason out, sort of, what day it was, and “on a horse” was where I was, but the rest was confusion…and the very typical brain-not-working desire not to let anyone find out I wasn’t all there.  The missing 45 minutes bothered me for years.  I was told I jumped the bounces perfectly the next several times, but the next time I saw a bounce jump (not at that stable) I froze, terrified.

Dragon does not really understand human psychology.  Dragon thought memory loss would be a chance to start over with a clean slate and not be “bothered” by annoying past memories that could make someone repeat earlier mistakes.   And memories can be so bad that they are edited out or stuffed in a mental box for years–or they can be destroyed by brain injury.  But for most of us, our memories of ourselves, good or bad or in between, are important in defining who we are…to ourselves.

So how does someone like Camwyn develop a personal narrative?  He needs help.  He gets some.   It can’t all be repaired at once.

 

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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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