Over Halfway done

26,500 words after day 12. That’s despite last night being truncated because after 10-12hr days with a horde of customers on Thursdays, my brain is something approximating Swiss Cheese. At one point last night, I dozed while holding the aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa down. Umm, there were more “A”s.

No, I did not count that as a word. Why are you asking? :/ I deleted it, and then made record of it here, because Internet is forever.

I’m actually pleased with the story so far. Which is good seeing it’s Book 5 of 6, and a project I’ve spent now almost 2 years of pretty much 100% of my writing on. I detoured just long enough to do NaNo on something else last year. Then buried the results because I hated them. The previous year was book 2 of this series. So yeah, longer than 2 years. And since they’re epic fantasies, the shortest was 125,000 words. I can almost see the finish line for the series. But it’s a loooong way off still.

Then maybe I can do some dreadpunk, with a Victorian Indiana Jones. 😉

Praise Literature and Latte

For giving Scrivener five automatic backups. Or Tarien would be gnashing his overambitious teeth right about now. Having been spurred to place a book 5 between my recently finished 4 and the series finishing 6, I thought again on putting a book 2.5 between my present books 2 & 3. Which are of course, in the can.

The outline for the book was again, frighteningly simple. But when I started rearranging scenes and moving files, I started to get a headache. The timeline, which is fairly neat now, was about to become a mess only Steven Erikson could approve of. But by now I had pulled chapters out of existing works, piled up a dozen new chapters. And still had 4 pages of outline.

Well, right about then, the throbbing in my head told me that nuking the outline was better for a writer’s sanity than introducing my very own Garden of the Moonism to my Hellenistic Fantasy. So I managed to find my backup from last night, save all my real work, and pretend tonight didn’t happen.

Then of course, I saved it for all perpetuity. Because the internet is forever. One note to Scrivener users who might recall the distant past where I discussed using it with this series (And all my fiction writing outside short-story length since 2012). Decide whether to break the project into chunks (of novel size or greater) or keep it unified at the beginning and stick to that choice. Your humble blogger tonight also experimented with breaking up his project, as I thought seven books would become unwieldy for the laptop’s memory. That choice did not last as long as the book 7 outline attempt. A good chunk of my keywords got nuked going from volume 1 to 2 and 3. I would’ve had to rearrange all of them, and rewrite a passel. I thought that acceptable, as then I could change ranks, and put characters who were deceased now back into live columns in earlier volumes for editing purposes.

Erm…not so much. It seems editing the keyword in one project changed it for all…even though they were distinct projects. Maybe because I had all 3 open at the same time, and if I closed the others it wouldn’t. But opening and closing them each time represents a level of tedium even I am not masochistic enough to endure. And I was a goalkeeper in soccer and hockey. So I know pain. 😛

Here There Be Dragons

Ok. Not here, on my blog. That would be silly. But in Book 5 of the Epic Fantasy? Oh yes. From the 1st chapter. One of the things I had to deal with when I finished Book 4 was that since the villains unleashed the winged wyrms from their underground prisons, how would our heroes deal with something that could attack anywhere, and ruled the sky, where humans could not go.  Plus I started another messy civil war. Finishing that off-screen would be dubious.

So yeah. That was the outline that took 40mins to write for as many chapters (added a few since, lol). As for how the dragons get fought? What, you think I’m telling here? Inspiration from Greek Myth, that’s all I’ll say. Which, given the Hellenistic inspiration for the story and era, makes sense.

Now for something completely different: The US loss to Mexico the other night…. 😦 Gutted. I don’t agree with Landon Donovan, whose obvious personal animus is getting far too old. But the seat under Klinsmann should be blazing hot right now. To be fair, it’s not the first time it’s been that way for him. At least Sporting KC can win trophies.

The Good, The Bad, and the Catastrophic

First the Good, I’ve officially been in full writing mode again. An 18,000 word in 7 day stretch that officially flushed the Doubt Monster and saw me finish up Book 4 of my planned 5 book Epic Fantasy series. I was even motivated enough with it again to charge straight into book 5…

Except Bad: When I looked at the ending of Book 4 that I wrote, even though I think it’s awesome, I saw that I had just written something that needed another book to get to the planned finale. No time line issues or anything like that. It’s just there would be a lot of things ‘explained’ going into the last book that would’ve been better played out. One of the things that annoyed me about the otherwise excellent David Gemmell Trojan War reimagination was how the war started, and then magically we jump over 10 years of fighting (which wasn’t all siege) to get to the end. I didn’t want readers to feel the same way with this. Not after four books. That it took me less than an hour to write the 40 chapter outline only convinced me that my 5 book series needs to be 6. lol

The Catastrophic: I was writing with my fountain pen today, when pop. I unscrew the pen and inspect it, and it looks ok. Until I put the cap back on. Next time I pick it up, and the body is cock-eye. I think it might be a trick of the light, and an hour later, I take another look. Nope. Clearly bent. So I unscrew it to look for the crack, and snap. Breaks right below the retaining ring. So much for the fountain pen. Sadness.

Let’s just hope that doesn’t put the brakes on my good writing spell. I was actually rethinking not doing NaNo this year.

Solid Writing Week

First time this year I wrote over 10,000 words in a week. And that was despite being too baked to write Friday after working in the real world 11 hours. So while it’s not the pace I like to keep yet, I’m good with it.

While I was working on the Hellenist Fantasy, I thought about doing something Stormlight-Archive(ish). One thing I have had to accept by limiting the number of PoV characters is that a lot of the story is told “from the top.” Now this probably isn’t *that* unusual for Epic Fantasy. But part of what makes The Black Company and Malazan Book of the Fallen superior to most, IMHO, is that battles are told just as much ‘from the fray.’ Codex Alera was also good at this. Now for one character, this isn’t a real problem, because like his inspiration, he leads from the front. But for the Dessians, whose Legates typically watch and only intercede when the battle is at the crucial moment, it’s a tad more complicated.

So to address that, and add some color and examine the soldier’s culture & trials of the time, I’m going to add a sprinkling of subchapters, similar to the Interludes of Stormlight, but contained in the main PoV of whoever they serve under. I might do this for the political bodies as well, in order to demonstrate how they operated–or failed to operate, as the case may be. I’d write those a little more in an “annals” style. As objectively as histories in the time got (which was rarely THAT objective).

I’ll wait until rewrite to decide if I follow through on that. But right now, at least, I like the idea.

An Interesting List of Bioware Companions

http://www.gamecrate.com/definitive-ranking-dragon-age-mass-effect-companions/

To me Tali, Morrigan, and Leliana should be higher. Tali because she’s just barking funny. Especially in ME2 with her Drone battlecries. Not to mention the drone just rocks in that game. That said, I’ll grant she’s a YMMV character. And maybe I’m weird, but I empathized with Leliana’s story. And I don’t think she ever ‘forgot’ her devotion. She just increasingly comes to see the Warden as the means for that.

And the complaint on Morrigan is…weird. What, she shouldn’t be powerful? She was trained by Flemeth. She can’t learn about the world? That’s what she went with the Warden to do, (and well, have Archdemon-Baby). It’s at least 10 years post DA:Origins by the time Inquisition comes around. And with the division in the Chantry, it’s will to deal with ‘apostates’ ain’t what it was.

Other than those, I’m OK with the list. I’d drop Shale down, because I find the ‘it’ dialogue from the golem annoying. And yes, Anders in DA:2 is one of the worst decisions ever. Not only is he a nutjob that forces Hawke to harbor a mass-murdering terrorist. But his story in the second game destroys his entire backstory and timeline in DA:Awakenings. It’s quite possibly the sloppiest bit of writing Bioware has done.

The list also (accidentally?) excluded Bethany/Carver from DA:2. But in keeping with those companions, they’re weaker than the other games.

Exit Rewrite Mode

Two books, 215,000 words, and pretty much able to stamp “Final Draft” on Aurori’s Blood. I’m pleased with the first two books of that series now. And I have an idea how to focus the fourth book so that it’s still the series I wanted to write, instead of the crazy thing it veered into with the fifth book. Ultimately it will still get to that crazy stage. But not until I’ve exhausted the history that’s the reason I wanted to write the series in the first place. 😛

So now I’m even more in a ‘dead’ time between here and NaNoWriMo. Or at least I would be, except for my vacation in September. So I think I can be at about 50,000 words by November, and then double that in the Month of Frenzy. Maybe even finish book 4, Chosen’s Return. Besides, can I really complain about going to Hawaii? Nah. Used to live there, once upon a time, for three years. That was before donning the tophat and goggles. My writing back then was largely academic in nature. Loved semi-colons. One of the things I had to learn when switching to fiction was to crush them ruthlessly.

I’ve been meaning to add pages on the blog for all the other stuff I’ve dabbled in. That is: The Aurori, my Hellenistic Fantasy, an Urban Fantasy, and a Space Opera. Though the latter may or may not go under Tarien Cole, as such. I haven’t decided yet. Given the amount of blog time I’ve talked about both lately, they need them. 😛

Insects and Insight

This is a snippet from my Sword, Sorcery, and Sandal Epic Fantasy. Strategos Amuhan, the narrator, is the “Hannibal” of my pseudo-Punic Wars plotline. Which is fairly close to the beginning of the arc here. Enjoy!
________________________________________________________________

If I would have been forced to describe the last day’s march on Trystwy in a single word, it would’ve been ‘swarmed.’ Never have I seen so many ways to be attacked by relentless, blood-sucking insects. Leeches waited in the swamps our march skirted. Mosquitoes and black-winged moths both descended on us in fast-moving clouds, as maddening as Shahrak Horse Archers. Even Shayla, whose ebullient mood had proven infectious since joining us, frowned and muttered, “Khepra Himself must have planted His seed in this bog.”

As a third mass of bugs appeared, thick enough to conceal the sun, Tiernan dismounted from his horse snarled, “Erebus take this!”

“Run faster!” Spiros taunted. “Maybe we can use you as bait!”

When Tiernan arrived at the bank, he didn’t dive into it, instead he reached into the mud with both hands and slathered it over his exposed arms and face. Clumps rolled down his short beard and tumbled back into his hands. The Thunderbolts hooted, but Shayla leaned forward on her pony like a cat being teased until its rump raises and wiggles. He returned to the ranks with a wide, lips-sucked-in grin that resembled a matron’s toothless effort. Even I found it impossible not to shake my head at the bard.

He had the last laugh, for as the bugs feasted on us, he rode through them without so much as a flick of the finger. When next we passed a spring with sufficient bank, half the host dove for the mud. I found myself tempted to join them, but as Strategos, my duty was to bear every burden without flinching. No matter how trivial it might seem. So I contented myself with swatting those insects that slipped beneath my hood or up the sleeves. With the low shoulders of Shayla’s gown, I knew that she had to be suffering worse, despite her cloak. So I cleared enough space with a hand for me to talk. Then I asked, in a tone I thought gentle, “I’m assuming Tiernan’s remedy is part of your folklore. So why didn’t you avail yourself to it, Shayla?”

She turned up her nose at me and harrumphed, turning her pony around and disappearing into the ranks behind as I gaped until a moth found its way to my tongue. That cost me much in military decorum. Tiernan covered his mouth and chortled. “The Chief didn’t lie when he said taming that one is like saddling the wind. Be thankful she’s infatuated with you.”

I feigned a blink as we resumed our march. “What convinces you she is?”

“Gods Amuhan!” His chest quivered. “Her eyes never leave you. Even now, she watches your back. Her hand ‘accidentally’ finds yours whenever it can, and brushes your arm or leg when it can’t.”

I tucked my head further into my cloak to hide my blush as another cluster of dried mud fell from the bard’s smirking face. “But you knew this already. Because while most Gods have favored you, Telas did not. You’re no better lying than the child caught with a chunk of bread from the oven.”

Snickering, I looked back at Shayla. Her head turned and dipped, like she was unaware of where I was. But before I returned my gaze to the road, her golden eyes belied the claim of disinterest. “Yes I did know,” I affirmed. “Though hearing you say it encourages me. One never is quite certain if a man’s heart isn’t playing tricks on him when it comes to the affection of a woman. Still, there’s something strange about her family.”

My bannerman’s face narrowed into a line. So I leaned a hand on my knee. “Let me guess: You know because it echoes the story about why you left your mother’s people?”

Tiernan winced. “I’d hoped you hadn’t seen my reaction to your analogy.”

“I did, comrade.”

After glancing over his shoulder to ensure Shayla’s pique hadn’t passed yet, the bard said, “Lord Amuhan, I’ll tell you my story. It’s up to her to tell you how close it is to her own. But I’m certain the same law is involved.”

“What law is this?” I drummed a finger on my thigh. Then flicked at another mosquito.

“Our people have a custom when duels are fought. To prevent retaliation, the victor must take the surviving spouse and any children into their own family.” His eyes flicked to Shayla again.

“That explains why she and Carii are so different in temperament and looks.” I stroked my chin. “So the Chief became her husband to guard the daughter. And she took up her training because Shayla possesses talent as well.”

“Probably,” Tiernan conceded. “I was accepted among the Lexovi because of my Mother’s talent. She had birthed me before becoming Beien Ciall to them. But another challenged and defeated her. All such duels are to the death. If there isn’t a death blow, the victor carves out the loser’s heart. “ He paused and cleared his throat, and I glimpsed a sheen over the big man’s eyes.

“And by law, you had a new mother,” I finished.

He nodded grimly. “Understand, most of the time, such ‘adoptions’ go well enough. However, in my case she didn’t want a ‘half-breed’ for a son. So I became an outsider in truth. And if a boar’s tusks were laced with poison, would any think to look before I died?”

“No, they’d never know,” I replied with a shake of the head. “They’d assume you succumbed to the wounds. So how did you—?”

“I’m not a bard because I have a strong voice and love to collect stories that can be put to song,” he answered dryly. “Mother taught me much of herblore and natural remedies. She also taught me a good deal about ritual magics.”

My eyes rounded. “Why didn’t you say this when Toi was poisoned?”

Tiernan shook his head. “You forget, he walked away. We thought it little more than a scratch. It wasn’t until the Priestess couldn’t heal him that she even thought to look for poison. By then, Toi was already dead. Besides, the chemist seemed to do a thorough enough work in identifying it. And I had never seen it before either.”

I closed my eyes and remembered the yellow ball and black bile extracted from his body. The bones broken from convulsions and contorted expression on his face as the poison killed him. There wasn’t a pit in Erebus deep enough for his murderer. And I wasn’t certain the order to kill me had come from Davos either. “I appreciate you telling me this, Tiernan. It couldn’t have been easy.”

“I’ve gone this far in disclosing the ways of Mother’s people,” the bard said with a deep frown. “You should know, even if Shayla were Carii’s birth daughter, eventually the two would become rivals. And only one could remain in the tribe.”

I hung my head. Rain Dancer sensed my distress, mincing his steps as I looked over first one shoulder, and then the other for the wilder woman. I caught a glimpse of her blond mane near Captain Spiros at the front of the Hundred Hands. A stab of jealousy pricked my side, though if I had been the newcomer, I’d be as curious as Shayla to learn of the new cultures.

“The condor was hers? Or Carii’s?”

“Hers,” Tiernan answered without hesitation. “She’s the curious one. And the birds are already bound to her arms.”

I pivoted and made an interrogative grunt. He shook his head. “Now I am getting perilously close to discussing secrets Mother made me swear I’d never share. If she wishes, Shayla will explain herself.”

With a sigh, I answered, “For an explanation, this isn’t helping me understand her very much.”

Tiernan chuckled. “Lord Amuhan, I may be a bard. And I certainly know the ways to woo women. But I’ve never made claim to understand them.”

I laughed so hard, I nearly swallowed a mosquito.

Something I’ve Discovered

Devoted Editing to two straight books in full rewrite mode saps the enthusiasm. I’m almost to the end of the second now. So there’s no reason to set it aside. But I don’t think I’ll do this again. Write one, rewrite one works better for me. Especially since I usually am editing a project while I write anyway. Though nothing as full-bore as I’ve done the last couple months.

I started compiling notes for Book 4 of the Hellenistic Fantasy. After the full-scale war of the last book, this one will be a bit more maneuver and counter, though with a dark adventure for a second plotline. Yalissa’s not-so-pleasant discoveries continue to accumulate. But at least she gets to ask questions in person this time around. Not sure she’s going to like the answers, though.

I made pilgrimage up to Sporting Park in Kansas City to watch Sporting KC throttle Toronto FC 4-1. It’s always fun to watch a game there. In fact, I’d call it the best venue for any sport in the country. And the team is the defending champs, so no reason to complain there, either.

But my real countdown is to vacation in Hawaii. Three weeks tomorrow. I lived there for three years back before Tarien Cole was a name to use. I’ve missed it often, but hadn’t had a chance to go back yet. It’ll be sad to miss the rainy, stormy, part of the year for sun and the beach. Oh darn. I may even get some writing done on it. If my wife will let me. 😉

A Hearty Endorsement

Of this list of questions: http://writerswrite.co.za/15-questions-authors-should-ask-characters

I’ve always been a fan of doing character interviews. I do them of my major characters in each book. Along with questions like, “What would cause you to abandon your plan?” for the antagonist (as in, “Does he do it because he wants to make the world better, as he sees it–and thus is a well-meaning extremist. Or is he just in it for Global Domination and the EVULZ). Even minor characters get a good helping of these questions. You never know when one might ‘step up’ on you.

For Yalissa, in my Hellenistic Fantasy, for instance. What would mentally destroy her has changed from Book 1 to now. In the 1st, the Destruction of her Temple and Faith would have undone her. She would have sacrificed everything for her fellow Chosen. However, the events of the second book tear away all of that from her. Now, her relationship to Sharit is more open to questioning. And what she truly cares for is the people she has freed from captivity.

How did she get from point A to Point C? Ahh. Not telling. lol. One day you’ll learn. I hope. 😉