Oct 25

Agent Said….

Posted: under Horngard, Life beyond writing, Revisions, the writing life.
Tags: , , ,  October 25th, 2022

So my agent and I had a good long talk on the phone last Friday, and yes, NewBook IS a book, and IS publishable, BUT (there’s always a BUT.  Always, from every level of alpha reader, beta reader, agent, and editor)  there are Things To Be Fixed.

Which I’m working on.  Started early Saturday morning.  Everything he said made sense to me (another change since late May of this year is that I can “get” what the “could be better if” is about again.)   So the fixes are a matter of finding the places to put the fixes in the right place, in the right words, and remove the less-right words in a way that leaves everything looking like it grew there in the first place.  That’s never as simple as it sounds (just take out the wrong words, put in the right ones)  because the simple form means cut-and-patch…and the new “better” words often clash in some way with nearby words (sentences, phrases, tone, prosody, etc.) that also need some work to make the patches truly invisible.  But it’s doable; it just takes (always) more time than I hope.  I’ve already made considerable progress.

Meanwhile, though, NewBookII is having to sit on the inactive line, and it’s about as patient as I’ve been when an earlier delay has meant the passenger train I was on had to be held on a siding so a series of long, slow freight went by.   (We had had a collision with an idiot work truck parked on the tracks; it damaged the locomotive’s cowling–it was dragging on the tracks–so we had to crawl slowly to a siding where a welder could come cut it off.  No fault of Amtrak, it was the company that owned the rails’ work truck that had parked there when the train was due to come whizzing through at full speed.  SNARL.)  Anyway, NewBook is being grumpy and trying to push its words into my “fix this” tool, and that it not really a help at all.

All thanks to my percipient agent for pointing out what I think were the two biggest things that needed fixing, one of which is now completely done, and the other one far ahead (but the small fixes in between are necessary to set up the big later fix, so it’s not sitting there outlined in fluorescent orange screaming “Look at me!  I’m where the dead story bit was!” at the reader.)   I’m now eyeing the first POV section of Gwennothlin Marrakai, whom some of you will remember as one of Dorrin’s squires, last seen about to enter the Bells school for young knights.   She’s a knight now.  But the first POV section didn’t please my agent and what seemed to me a reasonable and seamless transition didn’t work for him.  So I’m looking at home to make it obvious that it should be there.  And one thing is to put an obvious link to her brother, who has (just previously) been the most vivid of characters.

So the morning’s work goes on and I will get back to it, now, and you, later.

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Oct 18

Weird Words and Weird Brains

Posted: under the writing life.
Tags: ,  October 18th, 2022

Horngard II is moving along, and today it handed me something unexpected.   Two Marshals have arrived at their home grange (a senior Marshal and one in the first year of being a Marshal, when they work under supervision just in case…) with four dead bodies and an extra four horses.  They didn’t kill them.  They saw an attempted armed robbery by a group of horse thieves; the horse owner (they think) killed all four thieves; the Marshals came to investigate and the horse owner (not of the 4 horses but others) was glad to have the Marshals take away the bodies and the thieves’ horses, because that horse owner was taking some horses to a sale.  (Whew…got through that with no spoilers for Horngard I.)  The Marshals disappear from Horngard I at that point, but in Horngard II they have other tasks.

Firstly, there are the four bodies.  Their grange is in a smallish town (but large enough to have a town government, an inn or two, and the grange) so they hand off the bodies (since they aren’t local citizens or Girdish) to the town for burial…in the “scraw land.”  That word popped into my head as I was visualizing the conversation between Marshals and the town judicar.    I knew it was “where we bury criminals, people with no family or prestige.”  Very clear, very definite: scraw land.  I knew I’d seen scraw somewhere, sometime, but nothing definite helped me, so I did an internet search for its meaning.  Scraw has several closely related meanings:  a piece of turf (like the stuff peeled up for laying a lawn down somewhere, only just pieces) , that might be dried for fuel, or placed on a roof under thatching for additional waterproofness, or more specifically “a sod from the surface of a peat bog…”  

What my backbrain had dragged up from past reading, internet stuff, TV stuff was “bog burials.”   Not all bog burials were criminals, but it’s thought some definitely were.  The connection to “scraw land” I still don’t remember, but wow, the backbrain was certainly doing a good job of giving me an old word, a traditional-sounding word (as it actually is a traditional word) for “the land where you get scraw (for whatever use you want to make of the sod off the top of boggy ground)  and thus the place you’d also bury criminals.  I am astounded (and grateful…backbrain, you’re the best.)  Notice that this was not focused research…I didn’t go looking for a word for “where you bury criminals”, the backbrain just went digging in its vocabulary stacks and handed me a goodie.

At the same time, I’m having a heckuva time remembering a word I’ve known, and used, for years (caltrop) and have had to back-search for it repeatedly.  It’s not that uncommon (though not *really* common, like “snake” or “bacon”) and should not give me any trouble at all, but it can slide right out of my mind within two minutes of looking it up, and it’s really hard to retrieve, much of the time.  I’ve finally tied it to Caltrans so I have the whole first syllable with the crucial “tr” after it.   Yet there, rising to the top of my mental swamp, so to speak, was “scraw.”  I don’t think I’ve ever *used* “scraw” before in any of my writing.

If anyone wants some bog mummies in Paksworld, there they are, not a mile from a grange, in the scraw land.  A low, damp, place of coarse grass and moss and rushes, reasonably close to the South Trade Road that once ran along the foot of the Dwarfmounts  (north side) from sortakinda near the Eastern Ocean to Corner (Fintha, south of Fin Panir, where the South Trade Road turns north.  Why there?  Because it doesn’t have to cross as much scraw land that bogs trade wagons down.  The South Trade Road now runs from Halveric House in southern Lyonya west to Brewersbridge in SE Tsaia then on to Fiveway, where it crosses the N/S road from Aarenis to Verella to (eventually) Arcolin’s holding in northern Tsaia.

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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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Oct 05

Finished, Sort Of

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dragonkin we stand before you

Dragon’s iron wings fly o’er you

Dragon’s iron teeth will score you

We will stand for all

 

Though we tire, though we hunger

Though we grow not any younger

We will stand as stone in thunder

All will stand for all

 

Men of Horngard ready

We will all stand steady

Taste the iron of our spears

Your swords will never wake our fears

 

Our hearts lighten, our eyes brighten

Blood or death, they do not frighten

We of Horngard, Dragon’s kin,we!

Never will we yield.

 

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

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

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Oct 02

Stage 2 and Stage 3 Revision: update

Posted: under Uncategorized.
 October 2nd, 2022

This is mostly echoed from the Universes blog, so no use going there for more.

Stage Three overlaps Stage Two, because–especially this time–there’s no reason to ignore 3rd level problems while reading aloud to someone from the computer screen (there is no print-out yet.)    So if I find an entire paragraph that’s now redundant (a Stage Two problem) I just delete it,  or a temporal-sequence problem,  I mark that section in red and fix it when through reading, and if I find a typo (and boyoboy do I find typoes!)  I fix it.  Same with “infelicitous phrasing,”  doubled doubled words, and so on.

Every book *should* have (can easily have if you don’t have a submission deadline)  at least three full length revisions: structural, constructional, surface polish.  And also at least three readings: one of them voiced, out loud, two by readers with somewhat different ages/backgrounds, etc.  This time my original first-reader (Rancherfriend Ellen) can no longer read, because of severe macular degeneration, so I’ve been calling her up every day and reading a chapter or two to her, as I’ve finished that part’s stage two (or think I have.  She was a superb first reader, and she notices even hearing the book that “you said that already last time–we don’t need that bit.”   This has been good for both of us.

DRW (Readerfriend DavidW)  is another first reader, and I’m about to go to R-, who has been busy with other things while I worked on it, and combines well as a stage 2 and stage 3 reader because he picks nits like nobody’s business as well as spotting deeper problems.  He doesn’t read as fast anymore, though.    I’ve also had another first-reader take sporadic looks at it, but she’s got a busy schedule otherwise: she edits, writes, and teaches workshops.

I had wanted to be here two weeks ago, and would have been if not for the tooth problems and a few other complications in our lives, but I’m here now, and the book WILL go off to my agent this week (unless I croak.  Always a consideration when over 75.)   The book is now sitting at 167, 273 words,  and wandering up and down a few at every pass as I fill holes and trim off excess.  Probably will go in to agent close to 170,000.

Farrier comes today, in a couple of hours most likely, so this is just a quick update.

Dedicated Paksworld readers (you never look at Universes blog…<G>)   This one has really stretched my abilities in managing complex sequential and tactical (in the military bits, of which there are quite a few)  stuff.  I’m happy with the outcomes, esp. young Gwenno Marrakai’s particular approaches to dealing with her enemies.    The Marrakai younger generation is able to show that they’re not quite “all one brew, and that a heady one.”   as was said of them years back.   Juris, the king’s best friend, and Gwenno, his younger sister, and Temris *her* younger sister (not to mention Aris, who was Prince Camwyn’s best friend) have–while I was ignoring them writing the two later Vatta books–grown into very individual people.  Even the two youngest, though they’re not that prominent in this book.   (Well, you will meet Julyan and find out why he’s “different.”)

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