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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Jul 16

Zipping Along

Posted: under the writing life.
Tags: ,  July 16th, 2022

NewBook is now at 65,000 words, and still moving briskly.  It’s nudging me all the time to write faster…which is a lot more fun than the other way around when I’m pleading with a book to please wake up and move *that* direction.

The backbrain, though it doesn’t feel exactly like it did before, is functioning the same way.  It’s a help that it’s been over 100F every day but one, and there’s been no rain, so the heat and over-brightness outside is a reason to stay in here and work on the book.  I still make mistakes (besides the typos)…I launched into one scene that I really liked and it was going well until…oh.  It’s winter (it had to be winter, because Character A was in mmph doing fmrmuffm),  but the outcome of the scene was supposed to be A traveling somewhere that can’t be traveled in winter.  Absolute limit established in earlier books.  Not only is the snow too deep in the pass at that time of year, but the gnomes (who are less susceptible) don’t *let* humans cross over then, even if the humans can make it.  So that 2000+ words are archived in a separate file because I think I want to use a particular description of something, and it may fit in another winter in another mountain range.   (Sometimes you don’t kill your darlings, you just put them in the closet for awhile and then decide if they’re worth dragging out.  The answer is usually no, but occasionally yes.)

At 65,000, the book feels as if it might “want” to be a 130K book, a little smaller than previous Paksworld books.  But since it’s still generating new complications, it could end up in the usual range, or it could trim itself down.  I’ll find out by finishing it.  Everything is rough-draft right now, which is normal for me.  I don’t polish in first draft at all; I’m trying to get the story down.  It’s readable (an alpha reader’s already on it) but it’s not, as she said, “true to voice” yet.   Even more, I’m sure, since I haven’t written in Paksworld for six or more years.

 

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Jul 11

A Bit More About The Book

Posted: under Background, Story, the writing life.
Tags: , ,  July 11th, 2022

When a horse’s cerebrum–the thinking part of its brain, small compared to the rest–is treated as an external storage device for about 30 minutes of a particular human memory by a dragon who is looking for a place to stash that memory so the human in question can’t reveal something the dragon wants kept secret, the horse is immediately faced with an terrifying situation.  The horse cannot understand human memory, but it can feel the emotional surge of that memory (it was a very, VERY emotional memory)  and it knows these new surges are connected to its owner/trainer.

When the owner is with the horse (best case) the horse has much less cognitive dissonance to trouble it.  This is a horse bonded to its human from the hour after its birth; it’s been trained by its human, and its human is a steady reassuring presence in its life.   Extra emotion is familiar (the human is a person of strong emotions.)   The horse can check in with its senses–smell, taste, touch, hearing, sight–and its excellent memory of *horse* experience–and identify the extra emotional surge as just like its owner.

The difficulty comes when the human (or the human’s father, another familiar human) is not with the horse for an extended length of time.  When the human…is sick, or injured, or forcibly separated, and the horse encounters only those it hasn’t worked with closely.  Then the emotional surge of unassimilated human memories conflicts with its own horse-memories and the horse–for want of a better word–goes crazy.  Nothing makes sense anymore.  The smell of its owner, the touch of its own, the sound of its owner’s voice, are all gone, and what’s left is the intense emotion of its owner but without the owner’s presence.  The horse wants to find its owner but it’s not allowed to go find the owner.

The dragon expected horse and owner to be together and thus made no provision for protecting the horse.  After all,  a horse’s cerebrum is small: somewhere between a walnut and a lemon in size, if you should take that layer (it’s flattish) and roll it into a ball.  Yet–to a dragon–a horse’s use of its cerebrum is limited to the simplest of “thoughts” and there would be ample room to stuff in those memories where they’d be safe, and yet unused and unavailable to the human until the dragon came along to reverse the procedure.

Why would a dragon, who prizes wisdom, do something so obviously (to us) foolish?   It’s impossible to understand dragonish motivation completely (at least for me) but dragons do like to carry out their own plans, and by their overall powers, they’re usually able to bend reality to their will.  The dragon had a plan for certain people to meet in a certain way at a certain time, and neglected to calculate the likelihood that any two humans in an urban area may, however unlikely, encounter each other.  Perfectly normal random events, strings of them for both individuals, put them in the same place at the same time.

We could say the dragon over-reacted, or was having a control-issues moment, but whatever the cause, the horse is now carrying its owner’s memory of that encounter and the owner is…in a life-changing situation.  The dragon isn’t there anymore (it’s off doing something else, and is confident the horse and owner will continue as it expects…)  The dragon has many dozens of irons in its fire and hasn’t thought it needed to revisit these two new ones (the man with a memory gap of the same length that the horse has the memory dump) for another year and a bit.

Writers are even trickier than dragons…that dragon’s in for a surprise.

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Jul 02

Good News

Posted: under Background, Good News, the writing life.
Tags: , ,  July 2nd, 2022

Most of you will know that four years and 5 months ago I was bucked off, landed head down, and got a concussion that messed with my brain quite a bit.  It was only about six months after the previous concussion (that one involved a mountain bike and a pothole with an overbite) and…yeah, damage is cumulative.  At first I couldn’t read more than a few sentences at a time (short simple ones) and couldn’t write anything.  Also couldn’t knit worth beans, and couldn’t read music either.

Long story shortened…it became obvious over time that although I recovered the ability to write coherent prose, I could not write fiction anywhere near my previous standard.  And after four years and–was it two, or three, failed book attempts???–I pretty much quit trying and worked harder on what I could do to recover physically and the rest of mentally.

Then, out of Paksworld,  in May this otherwise frenetic year, came an idea begging to be written.  And very tentatively, I started.  And it…moved.  Breathed.  And is now behaving like my other books, in that it pulls me forward (rather than me trying desperately to push it forward) and hands me what I need to do a scene or a sequence, and has built interior and exterior connections the way a book-length work must.  It’s at 35K words now, and shows no sign of quitting.

This book is set after the end of Crown of Renewal, and though a lot of familiar characters are in it, they’re older and in a different time of life than they were.  They’ve grown up, or grown out into new dimensions, or aren’t where they used to be.  Well, except Dragon, who lives on a scale of time and space the humans (even the half-elven humans) don’t have.  There’s Prince Camwyn, who was perhaps 15 or 16 when iynisin invaded the palace in Verella, and his friend Aris Marrakai, two or three years younger, who woke and discovered the danger but all else were enchanted.  Camwyn’s been gone for years now, in Dragon’s care, it’s thought, without any memory of his past, Dragon has told the king.   Aris, grown to be of age to squire Arcolin in Aarenis, still misses his friend and worries about him, feels guilty that he wasn’t faster that night.   Dragon wants Camwyn on the throne of Horngard, the mountain kingdom in the Westmounts  from which Arcolin fled long ago, as an abused bastard.  Horngard has declined even more since Arcolin left, a series of bad kings and worse councils has left it poor, depopulated, half-forgotten by the rest of the world…and prey to banditry and petty tyrants warring over scraps and rags.

I’m a very happy writer, grateful that if the same plot daemon isn’t back on the engine room, someone is keeping the revs up and the process going.  If you’re going through a bad patch in your work, whatever it is and whatever caused it…I hope you have a similar experience of unexpected success.

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