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.

 

Comments (6)

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.

Comments (15)

Sep 17

Snippets

Posted: under Contents, Craft, Editing, Progress, Revisions, snippet, the writing life.
Tags: , , ,  September 17th, 2022

Time for some snippets, yeah?

This one will not be in the final book….it is the original start of the book:

Camwyn had no memories of his childhood, only those begun in a dark cave, when he woke from grievous injuries.  He knew of his past only what he’d been told by Dragon.

…………………………………………………………………………………………….

This was followed by pages of past-history stuff and landscape descriptions that (aside from describing  a gorgeous view of the Vale of Valdaire and a good opening shot for the movie, maybe)  have nothing to do with the story because he’s never there again.   Also, there’s no tension.  People who’ve read the Paladin’s Legacy group know who Cam is, what his injuries were, and that he’s lost his memory.  People who haven’t will be thinking ‘How many pages of infodump before I have a reason to care about this character?”

Worse, the next person being shown is thinking about how disappointed he is that on his last trip over the mountains, there’s fog and he can’t see his favorite view.   Interior monologue with nothing happening but the fog lifting and a horse whinnying.  Ho-hum, ho-hum, the starting point is dumb…and then it goes into pages more of trivia that’s interesting to ME, because I was working back into this invented world, checking that Fenis Kavarthin & Sons were still in the building they’d been in that previous book, that this and that were in the right place and the right kinds of interactions were going on. Fine, for a book on the economics of merchant-run late-medieval cities, but this is supposed to be a story.

………………………………………………………………………………………..

So now we have the result of a complete mental reset:  When the problem is a static passage, nothing really going on, AND it’s in the POV of a known character who’s a protagonist…don’t whittle away at it hoping for something better.  Take a big leap.

The blade lay lightly, but dangerously, on his neck, just under the side of his jaw.  “You haven’t paid your bill,” said the voice in the dark.

………………………………………………………………………………………….

The next sentence tells you who “he” is…Ilantides Balentos.   Those who’ve read the short story “Mercenary’s Honor”  may have a vague memory of an Ilanz Balentos who was Aesil M’dierra’s uncle and the reason she became a merc commander.   Ilanz in that story is a middle-aged merc commander who helps a village win independence from its greedy neighbor city, and when that city hires a much younger Aliam Halveric to attack, and Aliam sends out his squires to a recon mission, Ilanz meets Kieri Phelan for the first time.   Between then and now is a story of the young Aesil M’dierra and how she met Aliam and Kieri in dire circumstances–unfinished, still.  Maybe now I can write it.  Ilanz left his company (and some money) to M’dierra when he died.

This isn’t Ilanz; this is Ilanz’s much younger relative (and thus, more distantly, M’dierra’s relative.)  You don’t yet know who the other person, the voice in the dark,  is (and won’t, thanks to, ummm, errr, mmph, and mumble-mumble-writers-keep-secrets.)   But you know, every one of you, that you do not want that voice in the dark in YOUR bedroom, and you already suspect Ilantides may have a shady side.   You also want to know if the guy gets his throat cut and what happens next.

Does this 13 page segment connect to anything else in the book?  Yes, it does.  It foreshadows events already written some chapters later (and thus was easy to think of and write) that make other connections…and so on.   So when mmmrff happens, readers (the more astute ones) will be thinking “It’s those Balentoses!” while at the same time wondering if fffnnf can possibly make it out and can vlkksr get there in time.

………………………………………………………………………………………………

But remember the entire first chapter had problems of insufficient forward motion and insufficient tension.  Yet certain precursor things had to happen before other things could.  A had to meet B.  B had to not meet C.   D had to misjudge a situation.  And so on.  So what should come after that 13 pages that makes it clear the initial engine is putting tension on the same overall plot, getting the whole thing rolling?   Who gets the next POV slot, and why, and what do they do with it?

To keep the tension on, the next logical POV will be either the other conspirator or…another potential victim. The other conspirator has no further appearance in this book, as who he is, at least.  Readers are free to think he took part in a certain nefarious deed, or to think he was in another part of the same organization.  Doesn’t matter.  Another potential victim is already in the book, several chapters ahead, and was going to be in chapter 1 anyway, but from a different angle.  Well, then…make the next POV that of that potential victim’s POV and take a first look at Protagonist through that potential victim’s eyes…and at Balentos through that victim’s eyes as well.    Another big leap.

So the next POV is Aesil M’dierra’s but not in an exciting moment, though exciting moments are referenced, and a Significant Moment occurs in that POV segment when she walks into The Golden Fish and sees an obvious newcomer.

…………………………………………………………………………………………

She noticed a striking young man at the front window table, richly dressed in yellow and black over mail and–her experienced eye recognized the way the cloth laid over it–breast and back plate.

……………………………………………………………………………………….

Other necessary nubbins have been dispensed in this POV section before this moment, relating to the matters her cousins have kept bubbling on the legal stove, adding to the tension of *that* plotline, but this is where another and major plotline’s rubber hits the road.  The naive reader (the one who hasn’t read the previous volumes) doesn’t know who he is, and even the experienced reader–though perhaps guessing correctly–isn’t sure either.  The last black and yellow colors shown so prominently down here were–as far as readers know–on Siniava, the Honeycat.  Who IS this fellow?  Why hasn’t he doffed his heavy-weight armor, or taken the coif off his head?  M’dierra (experienced readers will know) knows every merc commander in Valdaire…this isn’t one of them.  So who and what is he, and what is he up to?   That’s revealed in their conversation, or the part of their conversation that’s shown, so the main direction of that plotline seems to be clear and straightforward.  The book is going to visit a place none of the previous books have shown, but that’s been mentioned a few times.

Another POV section is coming, which introduces two well-known characters from previous books but in different roles, and foreshadows (obscurely) a major road-block in the major plotline that’s just been shown, though the actual roadblock isn’t at all clear.  One of those two is the second, co-equal protagonist.  And Dragon, who, though a plot-mover, isn’t a protagonist, and gives readers the chance to question Dragon’s good will, sanity and, um, “wisdom.”   If humans have holes in their logic, and gaps in their knowledge, how is it possible for a creature of such length of age and vast experience and desire for all to be wiser…to be so blind to certain things?  Why isn’t Dragon the perfect deus ex machina, instead of…well…fallible?  Or are the humans just misunderstanding the nature of the beast, so to speak?

But that would be telling, not showing, says the mischievous writer, running off to work on other chapters.

 

Comments (9)

Sep 12

First Draft: Done. First Revision Draft: Done

Posted: under Craft, Editing, Life beyond writing, Progress, the writing life.
Tags: , , , ,  September 12th, 2022

NewBook isn’t *finished*, but it is complete in the sense of beginning, end, middle untangled so the segments are in the right order, some major side issues that belong in the long arc but not this volume sequestered for the next (or after that), and sufficient interior notes to do the next stage.

So…what are we looking at?  It starts the day the two major characters look down from adjoining mountains, one facing east, one looking south.   Everyone in it–whom I thought I knew from the previous books–surprised me at least once and sometimes more than once in the course of the book.  They showed up not when I expected them to, but when they just did.,..they were different than when I saw them last in Crown of Renewal.  Stuff has gone on behind my back, so to speak.  Because of characters’ physical separation, while each character’s plot line is briskly going on about its business, there was “braiding” to be done in this first, structural, revision draft.  Some of that may still be revised in the next revision draft.  But most of the characters are people that veterans of Paksworld, especially the Paladin’s Legacy group, will know, will have seen before…just 5-6 years on from where they were in age, experiences, locations in some cases.

From here–as fast as I can make it happen–NewBook will get its second revision draft, which will deal with remaining structural issues (a few gaps, now clearly marked on the first revision draft) , and its first “construction” revision (where something needs to be built better, so to speak…design is fine but that bit right there is crooked or unsound)  and then its third revision draft, which will deal with its more surface issues: the polishing part.  Third draft should be ready to submit, after a final run past some readers.  If the dental stuff hadn’t slowed me down, I’d be sure it would be done by Oct 1, but now I’m not…this dental thing is supposed to take several more days in the chair, I’ve been warned, and if they break the molar it will have to come out.  Last time I had one pulled it cost me 4-5 days of misery & no work on anything.  However, the later drafts usually (used to) go faster than the first revision, the structural one.

Once it’s clean enough to satisfy me, it goes to my agent, and if it passes him it goes out wherever he sends it (to start with, Del Rey, we’ve already decided) and I start the next one.  Then the decisions are up to someone else, and I’ll just work on what’s next and hope for the best.  It WILL come out in some form or other, if not from a trad publisher then Indie.   It’s certainly not perfect at this point, but it’s complete enough that I’m convinced it’s a real, and satisfying, story.    Right now I’m also having problems with my regular email but I can still access Earthlink’s WebMail, though the book is very close to its size limit on attachments, while Thunderbird was gulping it right down.  Another thing to fix when I have time.  No snippets today–apologies–but I have to feed horses, dress, etc. and get to the dentist this morning.

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Aug 15

Home Stretch: Horse Runs Strong, Jockey’s Hands Tiring

Posted: under Good News, the writing life.
Tags: , ,  August 15th, 2022

In other words, as of this time, 8:41, Monday, August 15, the word count is 126,019.   The yarn is flying off the yarn-winder, the thread off the spool, the story out of my head and onto the computer drive as fast as I can type.  It’s literally coming fast enough that I can’t keep up and am writing well  over 2000 words/day.   (In the last 9 days, if my notes are right, approaching 3000.)   2000 is really all my arthritic hand joints tolerate well, and 9 straight days of 2800+ is…amazing, wonderful, and painful.

If this book is considered as a horse race in the US, think of Secretariat’s Belmont Stakes run.  (Or, OK, just think of the Belmont,period.  Big oval track, big round curves.  Last week I felt I was past the straight part of the backstretch, into the second curve.  Now I know I’m in the home stretch, in the final drive for the end.   Some horses have a final “kick” for the home stretch and some don’t.  This book came out of the gate fast, charged past the stands into the lead, extended itself to the 2000/day and stayed there through much of the backstretch.  Then sped up again.  And again.  And again.

So from what I can see now, I know pretty much where this volume will end, and that there will (God willin’ and the crick don’t rise, or a piece of space debris land on us) be more story in another volume or several to come.

A snippet from yesterday’s writing:   Dowager Lady Marrakai (her husband recently died) and Juris Marrakai, her eldest son, the King of Tsaia’s best friend and now Duke Marrakai, having succeeded to his father’s title. Those who’ve read the Paladin’s Legacy books will remember Juris from early in Oath of Fealty, when a courier arrives with word of the Verrakai family having attacked Kieri on the way to Lyonya, and Mikeli is still the crown prince.

And here he is again, older and still the king’s best friend, having told his mother that his oldest sister Gwenno (two steps down the sibling ladder from him, formerly Dorrin’s squire before Dorrin had to leave to save the world) has joined a merc company.  He expects her to be horrified.

………………………………………………………………………………..

His mother laughed.  “That girl! Woman, I mean.  I knew she’d run away eventually.  Over the mountains seems a bit extreme, but she never was temperate.”  She looked at him, her eyes alight with humor as they hadn’t been since his father died.  “Actually, none of you children has been temperate.”

“Mother!  I’ve been the calm one, the quiet one!”

“Juris, you were an inveterate sneak and probably still are.  You had to know everything. You bored holes in half the walls of this house trying to find out what everyone else was up to.  Do you really think I didn’t know about it?”

……………………………………………………………………………….

For those horrified to find a Marrakai eavesdropping,  it’s a valuable to a king to have a personable friend who is completely reliable (both to eavesdrop and to report it to the king accurately.)   Juris no longer bores holes in walls and he never spies on the king.  If holes need to be bored, he knows who to persuade.

 

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Aug 06

One Hundred Thousand (and 688)

Posted: under Contents, snippet, the writing life.
Tags: , ,  August 6th, 2022

Words, that is.   I hit one hundred thousand words on the new Paksworld book just after 1 am yesterday morning.   Celebratory snippets follow (not the same snippets as in the Universes blog on the main site, BTW.)

1) Camwyn, who has forgotten his past before the injuries that required healing by Dragon, has a great deal more to learn about the world.

Camwyn rode back to the city thinking about what she’d said.  Dragon had said nothing about a Company of Camwyn, about “dragonkin,” but M’dierra did not feel like a liar.  He wished he knew exactly what she meant, who they were, what their rules were.  Paks and his other tutors had taught him about beliefs, about familiar heroes: Gird, Falk, Torre.  They had not mentioned a Camwyn, though if Dragon’s name was also Camwyn…but Dragon had said his name, his real name, was too long for humans to say and known only to the high gods.  “In my disguise as a man,” Dragon had said, “I use Sir Camwyn, but very seldom.”  He’d liked it–liked it now, in fact–that the name Dragon had given him was kin to that name.

2) Aris Marrakai, meeting a Royal Courier from Tsaia on the bridle path of the Guild League Road between Foss and Ifoss.  The courier asked Aris if he was the third son of Duke Marrakai, for whom he was carrying a message from the king, as well as messages to Duke Arcolin.

“Yes,” Aris said, immediately thinking of his father. Had he died, then?  “Your horse won’t make it to Ifoss faster than a walk, in this heat.  I can ride faster and have a mount sent back for you.”

“No!  You give me your horse! ”  The courier sneered at him, rage and contempt in every line of his face, his voice loud.  “Of course it’s hot! It’s the summer, it’s the gods-blasted South!  But the king expects his couriers to travel at a gallop.   I have the king’s authority to requisition horses from any Tsaian.   Hurry up and get off.  You can pamper this lazy nag all the way to Ifoss at a creeping walk if you want to.   I don’t have the time.” From the corner of his eye, Aris saw heads turn on the Guild League road itself.

“This isn’t my horse to lend,” Aris said, keeping his voice level with an effort.  “It’s Duke Arcolin’s, one of his own chargers. There may be one on the road over there you could hire.  Some caravans–”

“I don’t care whose horse it is! I order you, in the King’s name!  Get off that horse and give it to me!”

3) Gwennothlin Marrakai, now a member of the Bells and just resigned from service in the Royal Guard because of her father’s ill health (and her own boredom), demonstrates her investigative talent faced with the reluctance of the king and her own older brother to tell her why Juris’s marriage may be delayed and what is really going on.

“Thank you,” Gwenno said.  “Now that you are no longer my commander, but still are my liege, and in consideration of the family emergency I mentioned which has to do with–very likely–the succession to duke of my brother here, and thus the status of everyone in the family, I ask you to tell me truly what you and Juris are talking about.  I am quite capable of keeping secrets, as Juris knows from the secrets I kept for him.  I’m sure he remembers.”

Juris flushed a deep red.  “Gwenno!”

 

Keep in mind that all these are in first-draft status, which means that the wording of incidents, as well as incidents themselves, could–and likely will–change a little by the time the book’s finished and the revisions are done.  But all three of these (and the incidents in the snippets on http://elizabethmoon.com/blog/ should be in the final book in some form.  I think.

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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 12

The Dun Mare’s Grandchild 3

Posted: under snippet, Story.
Tags: ,  July 12th, 2016

When he had the flasks full; Oktar splashed back to hand them up.  His feet were bruised by rocks, aching from cold.  His grandfather looked down at him.  “Drink one swallow.  Then give flask. Catch your horse.”

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Jun 26

The Dun Mare’s Grandchild, Part Two

Posted: under snippet, Story, the writing life.
Tags: , ,  June 26th, 2016

As light revealed the land around them, Oktar knew they were north of the town, riding north, winterwards as the horsefolk said, and the reason he hadn’t been able to feel the rein was that he had none–his grandfather held Oktar’s horse’s rein as well as his own in his one good hand.  The horses moved at a brisk walk, ears forward, alongside a stone wall with sheep on the other side of it.  Oktar turned to look behind.  Nothing of the town showed but a blur of smoke in the distance.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Jun 18

The Dun Mare’s Grandchild

Posted: under Excerpt, Story.
Tags: , , ,  June 18th, 2016

“Again?” Oktar’s mother glared at him. “Bloody nose, black eye, shirt torn, a complaint from the judicar–you’re a disgrace!”

“They said we were dirty stinking horse–” he paused; the word they’d used was forbidden. “–droppings,” he finished.

“You should ignore them,” his mother said. “They are ill-bred; you should not dirty your hands with them.” Read the rest of this entry »

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