A Sprinkling of Plotbombs

Posted: February 4th, 2013 under the writing life.
Tags: ,

So…now that I’m well again, and have gotten the two government reports off my desk, and finished another commitment that held on until last night (committees…not my favorite work environment, but someone has to do it sometimes.  Just not me for awhile now)…now the book is trotting briskly ahead and today threw some plot bombs at me.  Lovely ones.

Naturally, any plot bomb creates a few problems.   The latest (just now)  was linguistic.  Someone is speaking a very archaic dialect, and the person being spoken to, in the books’ present day, is having trouble understanding it.  But you readers shouldn’t have to struggle with that.  Conveying the difficulty without showing so much of the difficulty that you do struggle with it, and making it believeable that something you can understand fairly easily is difficult for this other person…that’s the problem.  Not a huge one, and I know I can solve it.

But it delights me, because something I’ve vaguely wondered about for several books (the Verrakai’s shifting of identity into another body using blood magery) …the why and the how of it…is now clear to me, and also where they got the idea.   It just happened (in the writing, that is, like less than five minutes ago)  so I’m still at the bouncing up and down stage and murmuring quietly “That’s so NEAT!” because my husband, who has dental work early tomorrow, is already asleep.    Heh.  I hope all this survives the editing stage.

Even before I got the government reports done, I called in editorial help–not from my editor in NYC, who’s had to cope with the Hurricane Sandy stuff and many other things this winter, but from a friend who’s a professional copy editor but also good on structure.    She just lost some clients and needs work; she’s an excellent sounding board; this will help both of us.  And writing emails to her about what’s been done and where I think things are going is helping me restart the engines that shut down while I was sick.

So the plot-bombs.   It was a good writing day, just over 2000 words.    More tomorrow.   If I get a break, I’ll hunt up a snippet from Limits of Power for you.


  • Comment by Annabel — February 5, 2013 @ 5:32 am


    Yay for plot bombs! Hope you can really zoom ahead now. I’m so looking forward to June and “Limits of Power” and then to a re-read of the rest of them….

  • Comment by Kerry aka Trouble — February 5, 2013 @ 7:17 am


    Glad to hear you’re feeling better – it’s been so quiet around here. Also, YAY for plot bombs – I had wondered how and why the Verrakai had picked up such a horrible trick myself.

  • Comment by GinnyW — February 5, 2013 @ 7:23 am


    This particular plot-bomb sounds fascinating – lots of immediate problems to work out and tantalizing hints of resolution to some of the knotty ancient-history problems that have been emerging throughout the series. (Now I am sitting on the edge of my chair… )

    One of the things that keeps me fascinated with this series is the way that the changes brought about in the lives of present figures (Dorrin, Kieri, Arcolin, Arianya) engage and transform very long-standing “status quo” relationships between the different groups and peoples. It isn’t a now-the-ring-is-in-the-fire-and-the-dark-lord-defeated resolution. It is a cumulative unraveling of a pattern gone wrong. Thank you!

    And we will all be glad to hear that the inspirational fires are burning again.

  • Comment by David Watson — February 5, 2013 @ 10:28 am


    Yes, I have observed that the act of stating a complex problem in a succinct e mail can be a great help in getting a handle on a solution. Ain’t that neat?

  • Comment by Wickersham's Conscience — February 5, 2013 @ 11:28 am


    I certainly don’t envy you the task of wrapping up the multiple plot threads in the first three Legacy books, together with (based upon hints on your blog) the developments at the end of Liar’s Oath. Which makes me appreciate even more your reports of good progress.

    Thanks for the update. Looking forward to the snippet(s).

  • Comment by iphinome — February 5, 2013 @ 11:50 pm


    I smell a body swap comedy á la The Hot Chick.

  • Comment by Sharidann — February 6, 2013 @ 4:53 am


    It is always nice to have such a moment where you realize not only what happens but why it happens! 🙂

    Not that I have your extensive writing expertise, but still!

    Can’t wait to discover the Plot Bombs next year!

  • Comment by Rob — February 6, 2013 @ 10:10 am


    Hmmm. Plot bomb like that in book five.

    Makes me wonder if it is going to spwan off another book or three? This one sounds suspicously like another possible story recounting how a specific paladin looks into bad guys doing bad things (wink, wink)…

    Here is hoping for a few dozen more plot bombs!

  • Comment by John Hicks — February 6, 2013 @ 6:21 pm


    I second that,Rob. I hope you’re right.

  • Comment by Kathleen — February 6, 2013 @ 6:52 pm


    I third Rob. :-).

  • Comment by Daniel Glover — February 6, 2013 @ 9:15 pm


    Glad to hear that Plot Daemon is on the job. Here’s to many days of productive writing. 🙂

  • Comment by Jenn — February 7, 2013 @ 11:08 am


    June just cannot come fast enough. Happy writing!

  • Comment by Richard — February 8, 2013 @ 4:14 am


    From the books so far I have some tentative expectations about Verrakaien personality transfer:

    Some, even of those who’ve been doing it for centuries, are better at it than others.

    Few of them, if any, can shift willy-nilly.

    Most need help to leave their old hosts. Having someone behead the host body with a sword is sufficient help (example: Kory). The man in the Kuakgan’s trap who wanted to invade Beclan needed a new host body because his current one was dying in the cold of wound-fever (he’d been wounded earlier when they’d caught Daryan).

    Usually, the new host’s original personality has to be killed, (but without damaging the body past recovery, or it will be no use to the invader!) Stammel could be invaded because he’d been half-killed (strangled) but it went wrong because he wasn’t quite dead. Slow killing by magery over many days – and few Verrakai are powerful enough to do it any faster – is much easier to get right and provides an intact body that only needs feeding up for a full recovery.

    I’m guessing Dorrin’s father must have been one of the “best” at invading. In the emergency of having been found out and about to be cut down (in the groom’s body) by Dorrin’s sword, he knocked out Duke Marrakai by sudden and powerful magery as his only chance of a new body to escape to.

    The other way is to seduce the new host into willingly accepting the invasion (as when Korryn became Kory). This was attempted against Beclan after he’d killed his soldiers.

    The way Beclan’s soldiers were controlled wasn’t invasion (that would have come later), more like the way the ring Paks once had controlled animals.

  • Comment by iphinome — February 8, 2013 @ 5:28 am


    @Richard You forgot the blue comedy and then the life lesson about the grass always being greener or as Dorthy said, “If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own back yard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with.”

  • Comment by Linda — February 8, 2013 @ 7:25 am


    So glad you’re writing the “good stuff” again.

    My day always seems brighter when you’ve posted.

  • Comment by KarenH — February 8, 2013 @ 1:35 pm


    I am glad you’r feeling better

  • Comment by Kip Colegrove — February 8, 2013 @ 2:35 pm


    A sprinkling of plot bombs…

    Sounds like a step in a recipe. I’m sure good things are cooking!

    Haven’t posted in months. Much, much going on. And now Lent is looming, again.

  • Comment by Richard — February 9, 2013 @ 4:59 am


    @Iphinome, blue comedy isn’t my style. How fortunate we are that Paks didn’t listen to Dorthy and didn’t stay in her own back yard.

    GinnyW, yes it’s great how Elizabeth has made Tolkien’s territory her own, and what she is doing in it. We are indeed doing very nicely without a super-powerful Dark Lord. Tolkien concentrated on the doing of the deed rather than the consequences, but thinking about his resolution, it was the final unravelling of an elven bad idea and did bring about major upheavals. And we may yet see rings (and the rest of the regalia) “dropped in the fire”: Dameroth has floated the idea that if Dorrin doesn’t use their power, she should destroy it.

    Though it is still early in the story, it is fun to draw parallels between Elizabeth’s drammatis personae and Tolkien’s – different characters, but with similar places in life or in the story.

    So Dorrin in Frodo’s role (if anyone is), and Beclan almost the antithesis of Samwise, with Gwenno and Daryan in place of Merry and Pippin; Kieri for Aragorn; Arian and Dameroth for Arwen and Elendil; Flessinathlin as opposed to Galadriel; Paks who was the Bilbo-equivalent in her own books now doing Gandalf’s job; Arvid and Dattur (thief and gnome) as improbable a pair of companions as Legolas and Gimli.

    As interesting is considering which characters in one world have no equivalents in the other.

  • Comment by pjm — February 9, 2013 @ 6:50 am


    Richard, some interesting ideas there. Some parallels too between Luap and Denethor, though Luap was saved from despair in the end. Definitely the Elvish idea of the world as music – see Ainulindale at the opening of “The Silmarillion”. Some hints of Aule as the Maker. I can’t really see Dorrin or any other Paksworld character as a Frodo. On second thoughts perhaps Gird is a bit parallel – an ordinary person who must achieve an extraordinary task.

    What about Dragon as Treebeard?


  • Comment by Genko — February 9, 2013 @ 3:35 pm


    While I will grant some parallels, I do see the universes as being very different, and the characters as well. I suppose one could say that there are more or less required roles, and people are filling them, but doing so very differently, in their own idiosyncratic way.

  • Comment by GinnyW — February 9, 2013 @ 7:42 pm



    Regarding the Verrakai personality transfer, it appears easiest to transfer when either the host personality is disrupted, or not fully developed. The high fever (and the physical weakness and delirium that accompany it) are one way to disrupt a personality enough to effect the transfer. It would also help if the new host was very young and did not yet have a strong sense of self. The combination was obviously devastating for the Verrakai family.

    I would think that the first transfer would be the hardest. After a while, the person doing the transfer would develop a self-concept that was more independent of the body. Also it would be easier for someone who was growing old. Older people tend to have a self-image that is associated with their younger self, while young people can not imagine being old.

    Regarding Rings and things, your parallels are interesting, but I must confess that I see the Paksworld characters in their own world, with a rather different set of cosmic agendas. (About which I can only speculate until they unfold or explode or whatever out of Elizabeth’s brain and figures and into the word/world processor.) I was totally focused on the difference between happily-ever-after, and challenging-the-hero-to-grow consequences. It is/has been a pet theme of mine ever since I realized as a girl that after the princess marries Prince Charming, they grow up.

    I eagerly await the next installment of our growing-up cast of characters. And Book V, which sometimes seems like a mirage.

  • Comment by Jenn — February 12, 2013 @ 7:44 am


    Well, I had a wonderful time yesterday in the breakroom. With all the lovely snow (apologies to the east coast), I decided to take the Verrakai children out tobogganning. When the other extras found out they all wanted to come. Things were well until we stepped outside and the mercenaries didn’t want to continue they are all used to the south. The Fox company in particular as it was cold outside and for some reason they only wear tunics. Fortunately the thieves guild showed up with a motley assortment of winter clothing. The Marshals were suspicious and after much questioning and arguments out came one of Gird’s cudgels and with much swearing and a few curses it was discovered they had raided Jack London’s extras breakroom 4 doors down. So we dusted off the clothing, dressed the mercenaries and continued on our merry way.
    The Verrakai children loved the toboggans and the horse nomads took every one on a sleigh ride. The day finished with a bonfire and marshmallows and hot chocolate flavored with peppermint schnapps. Wish you all could have been there.

  • Comment by GinnyW — February 12, 2013 @ 10:58 am


    It sounds like a lovely day in the Extras Breakroom. It makes me think of long open hillsides bordered by trees. We had more drizzly rain, and no snow in Philadelphia. Sigh.

    It was too cold and wet here to let the Verrakai children go out of the breakroom. So Dorrin, with some trepidation, took them up to the attics to explore some of the nooks and crannies, under the reluctant supervision of the squires. But all they found were some spiders (little ones), and some very, very old pictures of people in funny clothes, and a musty old trunk with an ancient map of the Verrakai lands pasted into the lid.

  • Comment by Jenn — February 13, 2013 @ 11:22 am


    Be careful with that trunk. I didn’t want to mention it but we lost one of the thieves. Before they found Jack London’s extras breakroom, they found a room with only a wardrobe with old fur coats in it. One went it to get them and we haven’t seen her since.

  • Comment by GinnyW — February 14, 2013 @ 8:09 pm


    Warning taken. I have heard about a wardrobe like that.

  • Comment by Daniel Glover — February 15, 2013 @ 7:26 pm


    The lost link to Vatta’s world?

  • Comment by Jenn — February 16, 2013 @ 7:24 am



    I believe it is the secret crawl space under the staircase in the Field Museum. I could be wrong.

  • Comment by mikelabb — February 17, 2013 @ 11:24 am


    Amazon UK are now showing the UK Limits of Power cover on their website. Any one have any thoughts on the helmet? Looks like a searchlight to me!

  • Comment by GinnyW — February 17, 2013 @ 12:34 pm


    mikelabb – I must say you are right about the helmet, but I like having the horse in the picture.

  • Comment by Richard — February 17, 2013 @ 3:29 pm


    (#22) Jenn, I was tobogganing myself the evening of the day you posted, in an Austrian ski resort where I’ve been the last week. Lovely snow and I did drink some hot chocolate, but not round a bonfire and I don’t know that they ever heat marshmallows. Schnapps I know about – on its own – but not peppermint flavoured schnapps, which sounds to be a wonderful idea.

    Genko, Ginny, for me drawing those parallels is a fun game that highlights the differences, and how much Elizabeth has moved the genre on. Dorrin viz-a-viz Frodo is just a matter of her being a main protagonist and the only adult (other than servants) in a big house, who has inherited potentially troublesome items of magical power.

    Peter, Treebeard and Dragon – good one. I’ve also now spotted your comment in Speculation Space of two days before.

  • Comment by Richard — February 17, 2013 @ 3:58 pm


    mikelabb, yes, a cross between a cavalry helmet and a modern mountaineer’s, or miner’s, with electric headtorch. Though the woman is wearing (Girdish?) blue over mail, if UK Editor and the artist are meticulous about detail then she isn’t Paks (breaking the link between US and UK covers) because her hair is grey and her horse has too much white on the face to be Paks’ red one. Could the design on the rider’s medallion be not Gird’s crescent alone, but a G and an L intertwined?

    A great cover picture.

  • Comment by elizabeth — February 17, 2013 @ 4:16 pm


    The UK cover represents the Marshal-General. It’s difficult to show the gray hair under a helmet and they wanted her as the military leader, not just the head of state. I love that cover!

  • Comment by pjm — February 17, 2013 @ 8:16 pm


    From the cover mentioned above: “Their blood will betray them”.

    An interesting line. We’ll have to wait to find out who and how.

  • Comment by Richard — February 18, 2013 @ 3:59 am


    mikelabb: silly us, what’s on the front of Arianya’s helmet is her raised visor, with nosespike pointing skywards. The large rectangle is the mouth-and-chin-guard “below”. I can just make out the visor’s hinge high up the darkest part of the helmet’s side. Dorrin’s helmet on the UK cover of Fealty is almost the same design, but with visor attached lower down so raised at a different angle.

    Arianya’s pose, rich coat and maturity show she is in charge and there to command not to fight (but will fight if she has to). I love the way the streaming banner frames her head. Though she isn’t looking at us (so we can see that bit of hair), the horse makes up for that.

    UK cover slogans:
    “Treachery will taint a kingdom” (KoN, alluding to Pargun I suppose, but wouldn’t it have been good on OoF, contrasting with the title, besides the Verrakai colors and device on Dorrin’s shield?)

    “His blood will unite a land” (OoF, but could have gone beside Kieri’s portrait on KoN)

    “Loyalty has its price” (an obvious reference to Beclan’s little problem in EoB, though the man shown is Stammel who has already paid)

  • Comment by Richard — February 18, 2013 @ 4:13 am


    Oops, I think I misused a technical term just previous: the flag’s length makes it a standard not a banner.

  • Comment by Richard — February 18, 2013 @ 5:18 am


    I’ve changed my mind again (I wish I could edit instead of having to post anew). It isn’t a nosespike but shadow on the inside of a simple faceguard (if that’s the right word) whose front edge (now on top) is almost invisible in the play of light. Well done the artist.

  • Comment by Kerry aka Trouble — February 19, 2013 @ 10:33 am


    The amazon.uk blurb is more spoilery than the US one, too. As in more specific about which families are having magic show up. *taps foot impatiently waiting for June*

  • Comment by Susan — February 19, 2013 @ 6:58 pm


    Kerry, I noticed that too. I can’t wait!!!

  • Comment by Cindy — February 20, 2013 @ 1:05 am


    Just had to say I can’t wait for this one! Maybe if the publisher was reasonable about the Kindle prices…
    But I am tempted to buy the Kindle versions of the Serrano Legacy-Connection-Succession books. My print ones are hard for me to read now, and it’s awkward to try to hold them open while keeping my magnifier in place. Then I have to move the magnifier to turn the page. I really want to read that series again though! It is my favorite.

  • Comment by Sam Barnett-Cormack — February 20, 2013 @ 4:57 am


    Richard@18: I think the story of the regalia better fits the Silmarillion than LotR… the regalia being the Silmarils, and the Verrakai being the sons of Feanor.

  • Comment by Sam Barnett-Cormack — February 20, 2013 @ 5:19 am


    Thinking more, any similarities with Tolkein are more to do with each having similarities to common mythology than to one another (ignoring things like immortal ‘elder’ elves, which are pretty much common currency now). Aragorn and Kieri are both in the Arthur mould. Paks and Gandalf are both somewhat in the Merlin mould.

    Fiction that doesn’t use recognisable archetypes is rare, and not necessarily good – the archetypes speak to us, because they are archetypes and because of the reasons they have become archetypes.

  • Comment by Kerry aka Trouble — February 21, 2013 @ 8:15 pm


  • Comment by Genko — February 22, 2013 @ 12:13 pm


    Oooh, “one very determined traitor.” Does make one wonder — something coming together out of all this chaos. Beginning to move toward resolution, but not too quicly. I suspect we’ll have another cliff-hanger at the end of this one.

    I agree with the comments that the UK cover is terrific, dynamic. And one thing I like is that it portrays a woman warrior more or less reasonably clad (though she could use some armor, I suspect, to go with that helmet) for the weather and her activity.

  • Comment by Daniel Glover — February 22, 2013 @ 7:49 pm


    Just working on rereading EoB and the words to Kieri at Midwinter were coming from the Unmaker as he finished Midwinter. Who is that one’s agent, is the question we are wanting answered. I trust it will be both startling and obvious once we find out.

  • Comment by Jenn — February 23, 2013 @ 10:02 am



    I second the well clad woman warrior. I think that the tunic is outside her mail to show her allegiance.

    108 day left

  • Comment by Richard — February 24, 2013 @ 8:29 am


    as another forerunner of Gandalf (though not of anyone in Paksworld), how about Wotan as portrayed in Wagner’s Ring, or in Wagner’s sources? (I’m thinking about the externals of appearance and trappings, not about motivation.)

    yes, isn’t that mail showing at her wrist under the sleeve of her coat?

  • Comment by Abby — February 24, 2013 @ 5:44 pm


    I’ve always wondered a bit about parallels between Tolkien’s trees and the one tree, and there being no moon in Paksworld – I guess Ungoliant managed to destroy the Teleperion-tree before it fruited…..

    I like the idea of Flessinathlin as Galadriel.

  • Comment by GinnyW — February 24, 2013 @ 6:36 pm


    Genko, (and Jenn)
    I like the comment about the appropriately dressed woman warrior. I also think the armor is under the tunic. Or is that a surcoat? I have always wondered what one would look like.

    Sam (and Richard),
    The re-telling of northern European mythologies in very different universes is definitely a thread in modern fantasy. Elves (in Irish folklore) belong to Tir-na-Nog, the land of the ever-young, and Tolkien and others have kept that. I think Galadriel learned more humility from her long defeat in Middle Earth that Flessinathlin. But then all of Galadriel’s opposition was outside of her own people. Flessinathlin seems to have had a traitor in her own ranks, more or less.

    There were so many betrayals in Echoes, could they all come back to one very determined traitor? Or is only one of the traitors very determined? June is still awfully far away.

    I hope the plotbombs have produced steady fuel for Elizabeth’s fire, and not a conflagration that requires extensive rewriting.

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