Crown Molding

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

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

From the writer’s point of view, a number of characters began this series in apparently stable–but actually very unstable–positions.    Settled characters–people who, in midlife, thought they had everything tied down snugly and they knew what they’d be doing to the end of their lives–were in fact about to undergo unexpected and difficult changes.  Even the ones that appeared advantageous, with a jump in status and wealth, came with problems.  Or, as one of my riding books preferred to put it, challenges.

So through the series,  these people and others have had their ups and downs, have coped well or not with what happened to them, and they arrived at the start of Crown with new understandings of themselves and the changes going on around them.  But not complete understanding of either, and still capable of being knocked sideways by the unexpected.  (In some cases, they could not have expected; in some cases they might have caught on if they’d been paying attention in the right direction.  But life doesn’t give any of us all the time, health, wealth, etc. needed to spot everything coming from all directions.)

Tiptoeing around major spoiler blocks, I can say that revision has filled out some sketchy things, made clear what are the big psychological gaps still remaining,  and (I hope) has sharpened understanding of characters so that no one will be saying “X was too easy.”    Sometimes the difficulty is physical, sometimes technical/knowledge, and sometimes it’s psychological–relating to that character’s deep history and/or innate nature.    The book has…um…grown.  More stuff had to go in and a lot of stuff had to be moved over to allow the new stuff to go in, and then a lot of smoothing/molding/finishing had to be done to make it all look right.

Many of the questions asked will be answered definitively and finally.  Some…will not.    Not definitively, or not finally, or neither.    One little bit I can tell you about.

Like most cultures, these have festivals.  Some are very old, and relate most often to the seasons.  Some are a mere 500 years old, and relate to what happened back then…such as the Girdish war for independence from the magelords.   Not immediately (because Gird wasn’t into that sort of thing) but not too long after his death, a festival commemorating the great victory at Greenfields, including a re-enactment of the battle, got started and has continued.    But it’s not at Greenfields…which isn’t in a heavily populated area even now.   If you want a big festival with people coming in from all over the realm…you need supports in place: food, water, etc. etc. etc.   So instead of commemorating the Battle of Greenfields at Greenfields….it’s at the site of a battle Gird lost.   That has the advantage (besides tickling the funnybones of those with a sense of irony) of yearly canceling out the memory of that battle, and replacing it with the memory of victory.    It has the disadvantage of any large festival, in that crowds are easily diverted into mischief.

Let’s see…what else?   Well…there are ships, and stuff happening at sea.   I said that already, but there’s more than one “stuff happening at sea” to deal with.   There’s a tragedy involving a villain.    There are at least three very interesting horses.  Horse nomads show up.    We find out more about the internal life of a gnome tribe in its stoneright, though not enough.   Gnomish females are very secretive, including with their writer.   Saying “Come on, I’m female too, and I’m you’re writer…don’t hide, come chat with me.  What’s it like being gnomish and pregnant?” did not get me anywhere.  Beady black eyes and the disappearance of female gnomes into the depths of the cave.  I do know they actually eat that stuff they grow in those caves.

Not me: I once ate a cookie at my grandmother’s house–took it out of the jar in the kitchen late one night without turning on the light–and when I got back to the bedroom where I was sitting up late reading,  the cookie was furred with  with blue mold.   (Yes, I ate the other half of it.  It was too late to quit then, wasn’t it?)   I know what that mold tasted like (dust, if you’re interested.  Slightly sour dust) and misiljit looks too much like that mold, though it’s not the same thing at all.  It’s thicker and moister.  This does not improve its eye-appeal for me.   But you will find out how the gnomes make their cloth for all those gray uniforms and the reason for the carved screen Selfer saw when he visited the Aldonfulk prince.

I know some things about that horse nomad tribe, too, but that’s for another book–they appear in this one only once.



  • Comment by Sharidann — August 7, 2013 @ 12:49 am


    Thanks for the not spoilerish teasers.

    Shall Crown then reach over 500 pages or get even longer ?

    You tickle our imagination and then some, frankly, can’t wait for 2014 to come, if only for your book. 🙂

    I find it interesting that your own protagonists (and sometimes antagonists) don’t want to speak to you to explain some stuff (at least yet), as it is something I have also experienced when writing (wondering if it is the same for every author actually).

  • Comment by Annabel — August 7, 2013 @ 4:45 am


    When will we be able to pre-order copies on Amazon??? Longing for it. I love this world, although I am not too sure I should like to live in it!

  • Comment by elizabeth — August 7, 2013 @ 6:48 am


    Annabel: I have no idea when it will show up on Amazon for pre-order. This isn’t one of the things publishers tell writers. Someone here will probably mention it when they find it.

    Sharidann: I also don’t know what the page count in print will be–another thing that I find out later rather than sooner. Publishers can do-jigger the page count by playing with margin width and font size, and these decisions are made at the cost/page to produce level. I can say that in June it was 1137 Kb and 791 manuscript pages (not printed book pages) and now it’s 1252 Kb and 869 manuscript pages. The word count is slightly over 175,000 words, every one of which is pure gold except where it’s giant rubies or emeralds. (That last bit is a joke. Kind of.) Limits of Power was between 170,000 and 171,000, as a comparison. (And that’s with using the chainsaw in several places and trying to remove as much as I added. Which clearly didn’t quite work.)

  • Comment by elizabeth — August 7, 2013 @ 7:05 am


    What that means is that if Editor doesn’t insist on cutting out ~5000 words, you get a book longer by approximately a short story. Considering that I added considerably more than 5000 words in the multiple added scenes…I did a pretty good job with the chainsaw.

  • Comment by pjm — August 7, 2013 @ 9:14 am


    Crown molding – sounds like dentistry. I hope it’s less painful.

    Mould tastes like dust – yes that makes sense. I will believe you without wanting to verify it.

  • Comment by GinnyW — August 7, 2013 @ 2:28 pm


    Crown being molded into shape sounds good. Especially when we consider the alternative: Crown growing mold in the cookie jar waiting for the publisher. I want to read it in its prime!

    It must be so difficult to write the end of a series like Paladin’s Legacy. After all various stories and side stories have grown, developed in sometimes surprising directions, attracted new and interesting characters by association, and now it must all come together. So much has been determined but not resolved that keeping the details consistent throughout must be a MAJOR project. My sympathies.

    I am greatly encouraged (and wistful) that you seem to enjoy the story and be engaged with it on the second (or more) go through as you were on the first. It foreshadows good reading in the time that is coming.

  • Comment by elizabeth — August 7, 2013 @ 7:10 pm


    pjm: You may already be familiar with the term, but in case you (or someone else) isn’t–crown molding is the molding at the juncture of wall and ceiling, in rooms that have one…also at the top of cabinetry (ditto). Modern lower-end houses just have walls and ceilings meet. But older buildings often have crown moldings to “finish” the look. I don’t know if all fungal mold tastes like dust–and I am not going to run a taste test, either!) but the kind of blue mold on chocolate chip cookies (and bread) does. It’s very drying. Ick.

    Ginny W. You’re right, it is difficult, especially on a deadline. The end needs a lot of thought to make it work, and thought takes time.

  • Comment by Hawkman — August 7, 2013 @ 9:00 pm


    This may not be the proper time to ask, but I’m curious. During the 2 decade interlude when you thought about returning to Pak’s world, where the last 5 books about what you’d thought of, hoped for, wanted to accomplish?

  • Comment by Nadine Barter Bowlus — August 7, 2013 @ 9:28 pm


    Hawkman asks a very interesting question. I, too, am curious about that. My experience has been that some of the things that I have made have participated in the creative process and led me in directions I hadn’t considered. The results were exciting.

  • Comment by elizabeth — August 7, 2013 @ 10:37 pm


    It’s very different from what I was originally thinking of doing…longer thinking on what I’d written, plus the setting, plus the things that happened to and around me in the time between all entered into that change. I thought I’d write Kieri’s story, starting much, much earlier (and in fact some of that was written, and is on no-doubt-unrecoverable 5 1/4 inch floppies “somewhere.” With printouts of some of it in the missing stuff. In fact the main, “big” story would be Kieri’s return to Aarenis with the wakened magelords to clean house (and his conscience). Then I was going to write Kolya Ministiera’s story (and had in fact written some of it)–how she “went for a soldier” instead of a Kuakgan, as she was invited to do by a Kuakgan who recognized her gift for growing things. And maybe a Kuakgan’s story.

    I had no idea of writing so much about Dorrin and Arcolin; I knew some of Dorrin’s background but nothing of Arcolin’s in terms of real experience. And I had a very incomplete grasp of the complexity of the characters’ interactions beyond Paks (because, when she was the POV, she was young, naive, and not really present for some critical stuff.)

    By the time I started writing in this setting again, I saw the situation at the end of Paks’s initial story differently. We had experienced “forced change after age fifty” ourselves; I saw the trio–Kieri, Dorrin, and Arcolin–as people who thought they had life figured out and then had the rug pulled out from under them, changing their relationship to everyone else. I already “knew” Kieri, but working my way into Dorrin and Arcolin was more challenging…and then the minor characters started stepping forward, intruding (or contributing) to the story-stew. New characters jumped in and demanded speaking roles (Elis of Pargun, Ganlin of Kostandan, King Torfinn, the Sea Prince of Prealith, gnomes, etc.) And the story arc that runs from before Gird right through this group gained momentum and produced its own inertia. “But I wanted to write about so-and-so…” as the story-train rumbled on past that fork in the road. The plot daemon’s response to such complaints from the writer is “Shovel more coal, lass, we’re goin’ thisaway.” (Or, more prosaically, “Shut up and write.”

    So it’s nothing like I thought it would be, but I’m happy with it like it is. My best work surprises me.

  • Comment by Richard — August 8, 2013 @ 2:23 am


    Whilst mulling over Elizabeth’s last comment, here’s a reminder of something else written for Crown. Someone who “needed killing” has an unusual but fitting end. Quite a few people who need killing end up dead, so here’s hoping Alured is one of them, but the particular person referred to is somebody else we still haven’t met.

    There is a clue in Limits as to the existence of one such person.

    Elizabeth, any chance of a reveal how early or late in the year the Greenfields festival is held? Presumably it has to be when roads are neiher mud nor ice, and when farmers coming from a distance can afford to leave their crops for a tenday or more.

  • Comment by Naomi — August 8, 2013 @ 4:41 am


    Just to let you know, Amazon UK is already showing Crown for pre order with a date of May 27th 2014…

  • Comment by elizabeth — August 8, 2013 @ 8:15 am


    Richard: I can’t reveal when that festival comes; it would be spoilerish. Sorry.

    Naomi: Thanks for posting that info.

  • Comment by GinnyW — August 8, 2013 @ 6:08 pm


    The long delay between the Deed of Paksenarrion and Paladin’s Legacy has worked well for me. I can’t imagine a Writer who could go from the engaging and realistic portrayal of Paks’ youthful innocence (even with divine guidance, Paks is YOUNG) to the intricate maturity of the much older main characters in Legacy. I have been glad that Elizabeth gained those twenty or so years of experience.

    Of course, I gained twenty or so years of experience as well. I guess I am enjoying having a fantasy in which relatively mature characters are still growing! But also, I appreciate seeing you work out the idea that beyond the heroics, everyone keeps on living, not necessarily happily ever after.

    Richard, Don’t we have some idea what season of the year the battle of Greenfields was fought in? The time is the same, but the place is not.

    Naomi, Thank you. Although May 24 is a long way off.

  • Comment by elizabeth — August 8, 2013 @ 6:52 pm


    GinnyW: The re-enactment of the battle is constrained, as Richard suggested, by the need to put it when people can attend. It need not be at the actual anniversary. There are several times a year when travel and outdoor festivities are possible, and the workload isn’t too high for those interested to come.

  • Comment by Hawkman — August 8, 2013 @ 9:07 pm


    That was exactly what I wanted to know. However, I only entered Paks world the past 10 years.
    I wonder if the contracts you’re trying yo wrangle are the follow up to Crown, or parallel to Paladin’s Legacy, or one of the other rail branches.
    I’m kinda fuzzy because this Droid RAZR just spell corrected Paks and the possessive Paladin’s.

  • Comment by elizabeth — August 8, 2013 @ 9:13 pm


    Right now, I’m just thinking about what to do next–no contracts are under discussion (and that’s one thing I can’t talk about here, until contracts are set.) I can say that publishers want more of what sells best, only most sales are dropping, besides shifting from paper to digital formats, so it’s hard for them to figure out what might work better for a writer who, like me, writes in more than one genre. They think primarily of money (they have to, to run a business) and I think primarily of what I really want to write next. At the moment, I don’t know. I’m picking up ideas and staring at them and trying to imagine myself six, ten, twelve months into them. Will this one that sortakinda appeals catch fire and be sustainable? Will that one that seemed so inevitable four years ago still work?

    I’m tinkering with not-yet-chapters, the only way I know to tell what will come alive and be a book/series and what won’t.

  • Comment by Hawkman — August 8, 2013 @ 9:36 pm


    Are you taking requests/suggestions of which characters we’d like you to work up not-yet-chapters about/ around? Even if you didn’t follow our ideas it would still be interesting to see how the votes go. And perhaps an indication of potential sales/popularity.

  • Comment by Hawkman — August 8, 2013 @ 9:43 pm


    When I describe your work to others, I often am informed of the prevalence of Paladins in video games and I point out your work predates the creation of those games with Paladins having the sort of powers yours do. Have you found that you are the Genesis for this prototype Paladin or did another work predate yours?

  • Comment by Richard — August 9, 2013 @ 1:56 am


    there’s an early post – I think it was already in “back numbers” when I discovered this site – in which Elizabeth tells how she was responding to paladins in the original non-video, social, pen-paper-and-dice D&D game. But was she the first (or indeed, only one) to feed the idea back into the literary genre that had inspired the game?

  • Comment by Hawkman — August 9, 2013 @ 4:49 am


    You’re saying D&D predates Elizabeth’s work? She didn’t create Paladins of this type?

  • Comment by Hawkman — August 9, 2013 @ 4:49 am


    I thought D&D was later.

  • Comment by Sharidann — August 9, 2013 @ 5:15 am


    D&D is earlier.

    AFAIK, Elizabeth began to write Paks because she heard people discussing paladins and their behaviour in D&D setting and found them utterly ridiculous.

    Sheepfarmer’s daughter was released in 1988 and as I was already a big big fan of AD&D at that point.

    D&D is a product of the 70s, being relased in 1974.
    AD&D got released in 1978 or 1979.

    I still have the books somewhere in the attic, plus many supplements concerning the Forgotten Realms setting.

    @ Richard : good question, but do you limit the answer to paladins ? If yes, David Eddings would come to mind (The Jewels Trilogy), albeit is world doesn’t feel as real as Elizabeth’s. If not, then the list is endless, as I think that many authors in the 80s and 90s profited from some RP-Experience.

  • Comment by elizabeth — August 9, 2013 @ 7:56 am


    Paladins existed in literature long before the 20th century and that’s where I met them–initially in Tennyson and then in Malory and then in French class, in the Chanson de Roland. So my concept of “paladin” was well developed (though modified by my few but formative years in the Marines) long before I ran into Gygax’s definitions in D&D. The paladin was a competent warrior committed to the service of a deity…which in practice would mean using the intelligence of the warrior–the “military mind”–to accomplish ends determined by the deity. I had not previously written characters _called_ paladins–in part because I mostly wrote far-future SF in my teens and twenties and early thirties–but I had written characters who _acted as_ paladins.

    The urge to write a character clearly defined as a paladin did come from what annoyed me about D&D and D&D players…the simplistic definitions of character and the assumptions that characters who were “evil” or “good” would make stupid choices just to be purely evil or good (rather than intelligent choices that lay within those possibilities.)

    I blame Tolstoy, in part: the famous statement about all happy families being alike and unhappy families being each unhappy in its own way–with the corollary that happy families were boring (too boring to write about) and unhappy families were interesting (and writers should concentrate on them.) This generated, or at least reinforced, the notion that “good” people are too dull and stupid to be interesting and “bad” people are smarter and have more fun and are interesting.

    Reviewers had been saying such things for years, and more: that people/characters who tried to be good were just silly, uptight, not-very-smart prigs who lived to destroy fun and make other people miserable. Also they took the easy way out, had “better” lives only because they evaded the hard choices, etc, etc. That bad guys were always more interesting than good guys, and therefore writers should steer away from writing boring books about boring good guys and dig into the far more interesting psychology of evil.

    I had been against all this from early on, almost a complete reversal. So I reacted to Gygax’s presentation of paladins–and the way the kids I knew played them (by this time I was in my thirties–the kids were the age of children I might have had if we’d had biological kids. They were friends’ kids.)

    The intrusion of an adult saying “That can’t work!” and “That’s really stupid!” and “No, that’s not what paladins are–here, read Tennyson and Malory and the varieties of Grail legends, plus the Song of Roland (and, and and) and for that matter you should start with Homer and then Herodotus and Thucydides and Xenophon to get a grip on basic military and political stuff so you don’t run into easy traps like you just did…” was not entirely welcome. Understandably. I did rewrite the rules for paladins in a local game (and demonstrate how to use them) but game-playing is not my thing, really–I went away muttering and started writing the books. (Submitting my idea of story arc to a DM’s game plan is…not much fun. Guess who gave out the storylines for the games we played when I was a kid. Yup. Control issues in those directions. “No, we attack the sheriff’s castle AFTER we rob the rich merchant in the forest…”)

    But back to characterization. A pivotal influence in my reading and writing came with Nevil Shute’s _Trustee from the Toolroom_, which I read first in condensed form when I was about 15, and then later in the original at about 20 (found a copy in a used book store.) I read his other books (except _On the Beach_, which I didn’t read until I was fifty-something), and got something from all of them, but _Trustee_ was the eye-opener because the protagonist was not flamboyant in any way and combined essential decency with intelligent (and devious) pursuit of a goal he thought good.

    The role-playing observations and play had their good points, to be sure. I learned better ways of “seeing” an engagement and better ways of randomizing outcomes (and preventing unrealistic results caused by author’s sentiment.) Known percentages of personnel loss in similar engagements in the real world could be applied with rolling the dice to determine how many, and who, died or were wounded in a given story situation. All the little metal figures the group collected were fun to look at and also fun to paint, though once we had an infant/toddler there was no time for that. And in the long run, since annoyance with the characterization of paladins motivated me to write a very different kind–that has worked out to my advantage–even the frustration and annoyance was worthwhile. The oyster needs an irritating intrusion to produce a pearl.

  • Comment by Hawkman — August 9, 2013 @ 9:35 am


    That answers a LOT of questions. Perhaps all regarding Paladins. Thanks.

  • Comment by elizabeth — August 9, 2013 @ 9:40 am


    In other words, I told you more about zebras than you wanted to know? Sorry. Sometimes I get stuck on a topic. Going away now to work on something inspired by an article on a French archaeological site that I ran across yesterday.

  • Comment by Hawkman — August 9, 2013 @ 10:00 am


    While reading the Paks story I had off wondered about something.
    For most of history prior to King James, his Bible, and the denominational breaks in Christianity, almost all “higher” education was controlled by the Church, whether thru Royal leader or organized religion. To attend seminary or become knight one needed to capitulate all reason yo the Church, for instance rejecting the obviousness of the earth orbiting the sender earth. To not subjugate your thinking process to the church meant a life of manual toil or perhaps beheading, witch provenance, etc.
    The friction from Fin Panir forcing Paks to abandon her independence did grate me and I feared she had fallen from the pedestal I had her on. I was not surprised by her subsequent troubles.

  • Comment by Hawkman — August 9, 2013 @ 10:03 am


    No, I wanted to know. I didn’t expect the answers to materialize, even if parsed out. After all my questions piling up over the years, a veritable flood of desired data. Again, thanks for taking the time.

  • Comment by Hawkman — August 9, 2013 @ 10:06 am


    Um. I meant earth orbiting the sun. This autocorrection is a pita. And oft got changed to off.

  • Comment by Richard — August 10, 2013 @ 4:36 am


    this is your site, write as much about your zebras as you like. Nobody is forced to read through but some of us like doing so.

    What I know about Mallory’s characters is at too many removes, but thanks to my grandfather I do have Dorothy Sayer’s Song of Roland translation. I venture to suggest that neither Roland nor Oliver qualify fully as paladins, for all their differing military virtues, but that Archbishop Turpin and perhaps Charlemagne himself do. (Charlemagne because the Angel Gabriel appears to him at key moments.)

  • Comment by Richard — August 10, 2013 @ 6:05 am


    This seems as good a time as any to say that I shall be somewhat disgusted with the Marshal-General and the Knights of Gird if they haven’t told Paks by now that officially, in their books, she does have knightly rank (whether she cares or not).

  • Comment by ellen — August 12, 2013 @ 3:36 am


    @24 I love ‘Trustee from the Toolroom’! Very unglamorous protagonist heroically fulfilling his duty as trustee, I love the way he finds he has made many friends all over the world that help him along in fulfilling said duty…mmm feel another read coming up…:-)

  • Comment by Alex — August 21, 2013 @ 2:56 pm


    Just so you know, it is possible to recover 5.25″ floppies if you find them. First you might try your local computer recycle/repurpose store and see if they have any antiques that they can help you use. Alternatively try your local university. I know at least two professors that still have computers stashed away that use 5.25″ floppies. Alternatively ask the University Physics department if they can help you retrieve the data off of them. It would be a good independent project for a first year physics grad student.

  • Comment by elizabeth — August 24, 2013 @ 6:57 am


    Alex: Thank you. I’m going to copy this info into a non-progressive file (one that doesn’t grow at one end every day) so I can find it later. Can you tell me who’s likely to have software that can read WordStar files and convert them to Word?

  • Comment by Hawkman — August 28, 2013 @ 3:35 am


    Because WordStar was one of the triumverate of word processors that Word could never compete with, many are the old floppys with that format still around. My current document gladiator is the last version of Word Perfect before microshaft hosed it.
    using yahoo search with “wordstar conversion” produced reasonable answers, tho I cannot verify they currently work. Looks like the microshaft server has a Wordstar converter pack for download.
    For the floppys, the actual floppy drives can still be plugged into most any IDE PC, and then can be enabled in the BIOS. I still see these at yard sales, but used computer stores seem to have passed them by. If you nicely talk with one of the computer salvage stores (they strip older computers for their hard drives and magnets) they should be able to hold one or two(for reliability) to the side for you.

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