Sunday, April 28, 2013

Not That I'm a Very Prolific Blog Writer, But...

... Posts are likely to be few and far between for the next couple of months. I've got a huge project going live at the end of June, and my team is up to our eyeballs testing systems, tweaking data conversions, and training people to make sure that everything goes off as well as it possibly can.

I've already been working 2 out of 4 weekends (not to mention many evenings) for the past several months, and now the workload is getting even heavier, leaving me with little to no free time for my hobbies. Not to worry, however: as is always the case, this too shall pass, and after we go live and spend a couple of weeks on stabilization, I should be back to my more-regular novel writing and blog posting.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Thoughts on the Elefdar Tongue

I'm struggling with the Elefdar language. I have realized that it shows a very heavy influence of Old Norse, which was not intended by me, but I have spent so much time delving into other Norse topics that I suppose it was bound to happen. Problem is, the language doesn't have the sound in had in mind for it, and now I'm seriously thinking of going back and reviewing (and possibly re-doing) the entire lexicon. Many words will likely be fine, especially those that I came up with a year ago or more. But I think most of the more recent ones will need to be redone.

It's not a huge thing, I suppose. I only have a lexicon of a couple thousand words, so it probably wouldn't even take very long to get through. And the grammar and syntax won't change, since I had those designed early on and am still pretty happy with them. Still, it's yet another small project that will add more time to the completion of this novel. The story itself will go on, of course, and I expect to be done ahead of my original estimate (mid-September). But the re-write process will probably take longer than originally planned, which means that in the end, any time I gained in the draft writing will be lost in the revision process.

The ultimate goal is to be ready for publishing by the end of the year, and I think that's still doable, even if the path to get there takes a couple of turns that I hadn't expected. Sounds like a metaphor for life, eh?

Word Count, 21-April-2013

I wrote a couple thousand words yesterday, plus a few hundred earlier in the week, pushing the story past 136,000. Getting so close to the end I can taste it!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Word Count: 14-April-2013

The secondary climax is complete. While there are a few loose ends to tie up, I think the story will be done in 10-15,000 words, putting me right on track.

I wrote 5,000 words this weekend, 4,000 of those just since this morning, and have passed 134,000 words for the novel as a whole. So close to being done!

And then comes the re-write, from rough draft to second draft...

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Chapter Twelve, Scene Two

Balfrith stood on the raised foredeck of the Reindeer as it sailed toward the Drakenmount Fjord, approaching its destination. The main sail was about half full under a light westerly breeze, and the stern sail was furled, but they clearly had plenty of power to sail up to the fjord’s entrance, before deploying oars for their final approach. As sailors climbed about in the rigging and over the decks, he watched the great mountain which gave its name to this city of Nifflgarde, Drakenmount, growing quickly as they drew closer.

Is that actually a dragon coiled and resting on the peak? he wondered, brows raised and eyes open wide with awe. He craned his neck to see as they drew close, about to enter the protected fjord with the mountain on their left. Hallgeir laughed, a throaty, gusty sound, from behind him. Turning, Balfrith saw him, Eldamir and Calunoth all standing just a step behind and watching both him and the mountain. “What’s so funny?” he asked.

Hallgeir said, “You look as if you’ve just seen your first dragon, ‘in the scales’, as it were.”

Glancing back up at the mount, Balfrith said, “Haven’t I? I was wondering if that really is a dragon resting at the peak. But I don’t suppose it to be so, eh?”

Calunoth, standing near, grinned. “Nay Balfrith, though you’re not the first to see it, and wonder. I myself had the same reaction, many years ago, at my first arrival here. I know exactly how you feel.”

Balfrith bristled at that, thinking that the cynical mercenary couldn’t possibly know how he felt. But he calmed himself, and said, “Indeed? And if it’s not a real dragon, then what is it?”

Laughing again, Calunoth said “That, my young friend, is a tribute to the stubbornness of the Men of Nifflgarde. Though our friend Hallgeir would probably prefer that I call it a monument to a great king.”

Hallgeir shook his head and said, “Not a monument to any king, Calunoth. It was commissioned by king Eyrik the Great, and begun during his reign. But it memorializes nothing, except perhaps the greatness of the Men of Nifflgarde. After all, I’ve yet to see or hear of anything like this in Sildara, or anywhere else for that matter.” He grinned broadly, and Balfrith wasn’t sure if Hallgeir was joking, or smiling in pride.

He looked again at the mountain, and wondered. What would drive a nation to do something like this?

And then his attention was drawn away from the mountain, for they rounded a shoulder of rock rising from the waters of the fjord, and there ahead of them was the city of Drakenmount. The fjord narrowed at this point, and Balfrith noticed that the waters had suddenly become rather rough. The captain ordered oars to be mounted and the main-sail furled.

As the noise increased all around them, with the rushing of waters driven to and fro by conflicting tides, oars sliding into locks and sailors calling across the rigging to one another, Balfrith continued observing the city ahead of them. It stood at the heights of a steep slope down toward the water, overlooking the bay, and the docks, below. But it was small, perhaps smaller than any city he’d ever seen before. More like a mid-sized town than a royal capital, he thought, considering. It was walled like any other city, with those walls running full circle around it. Even the area near the docks was walled, though it had a great double-towered gate facing the docks, large enough to let two or three wagons through at the same time. From the gate, a wide road descended back and forth down the rocky slope to the level of the docks. It appeared to have been hewn from the living stone of the fjord, and seemed to Balfrith to be almost as great a feat as the carving of the dragon above had been.

The buildings, the few that could be seen peeking over the walls, seemed to be only one or two stories tall. Scanning the walls and the few roofs rising above them, Balfrith couldn’t locate the keep, or see any sign of a royal palace.

Finally turning to Hallgeir, he asked, “Does the king still have his royal seat here in Drakenmount?”

“Aye,” answered the laconic northerner.

“I can’t see the palace from here - can you point it out? Or is there a keep of some sort?”

Hallgeir laughed, a single short bark. “Nay, Balfrith, for the entire city is a walled castle and has no need of a keep. The fjord is well-protected as well, from both the sea and the surrounding land. Look about, and take note of the heights: we are in a protected valley, with walls of living rock all about us. Even the tides at the fjord entrance protect us, for there are few Men in all the West, save those of Nifflgarde alone, who know how to navigate these treacherous waters.”

Balfrith looked around, taking note of what his companion had pointed out, and nodding. Hallgeir added after a moment, “I will point out to you the king’s hall after we’re in the city. It is little different than most of the other structures, though somewhat larger of course.”

It took them perhaps half an hour to reach the pier under oar power, and Balfrith continued watching the city as they approached, trying to see whatever details he could. Unfortunately with the city so high above the level of the water, and with its walls rising above the level of most buildings, he couldn’t see much beyond them. After disembarking the ship, the four companions walked up the switchback road from the docks to the port gate, staying out of the way of wagons moving up and down, carrying cargo and the occasional passengers.

Once through the great gates, Balfrith looked around at the buildings. They seemed to be constructed almost entirely of wood and stone, especially with stone footings and foundations, and many of them actually appeared to be growing grass on the steeply-slanted roofs. He shook his head in amazement, wondering where these north-men had gotten their crazy ideas about building.

Finally he turned to Hallgeir and asked, “Why are the buildings here so different than the way we build in Nûmidëa or Sildara?”

Hallgeir looked around, and said, “What do you mean?”

“Well, everything seems to be of smooth wood logs, laid atop a stone foundation. There’s no use of plaster or mortar that I can see. And look how there’s grass growing on the roofs - also how steep the roofs are. What advantages does all this bring?”

Hallgeir shrugged, and was silent. Just when Balfrith thought he would get no answer, the northerner said, “The roofs are steep because of the snow. We get so much of it here, and so quickly, that if it piled up on top of our buildings they would just collapse. This way, it falls down into the streets where we can clear it away.”

Balfrith stopped walking and looked at his companion. “Just how much snow do you get, anyway? We might get a few inches in the winter, but it usually doesn’t stay very long and certainly doesn’t pile up so high that it could collapse a building.”

Hallgeir thought for a moment, then said, “I remember more than one winter where the snow got higher than old Svartli the miller, and he was the tallest man in the mark. Ten spans tall he was, straight and skinny like a pine. We had to dig paths through the snow to get anywhere, and it piled up so high you could hardly see the sun except at noon. Most of our houses were covered right to the lower edge of the roofs, except the few that had a second story on them.”

Balfrith was dumb-struck, trying to imagine the scene that Hallgeir described, and utterly at a loss to do so. “But… how did you do anything in all that?”

“What’s there to do in winter? We had already stored away our provisions for the next several months, so there was no need for fishing or hunting except in sport, nor any farming to be done. The women would weave new clothes, or repair old ones, and the men would work on interior house repairs. No one worked very hard, though. We would put on our snow shoes, or skis, and play in the snow - both men and women. And the men might go hunting for bear, or boar, or deer. I did not live near any lakes, but I have heard that some men go fishing on the frozen waters of the lakes. And on Skaldsdays we would go to the ritual house, to hear stories of our ancestors, and of the gods, and celebrate the sacred days.”

Balfrith could only shake his head, as Hallgeir’s answer invited more questions than it answered. He could see that it would take some personal experience before he really understood the Nifflgarde version of winter. And given the lateness of the season, I might just get that chance.

Computer Issues Resolved!

Got the operating system and apps installed over the past couple of days, and I'm up and running once again. Yay! I plan to post another sample tomorrow. Until then... yay!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Joys of Computing

My laptop Windows installation got so badly corrupted today that I can't even boot to the desktop. Fortunately I have good backups. Just need to reinstall the OS and apps, which will take a while. More to come as I have a chance...

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Drakenmount (aka Chapter Twelve, Scene One)

As I pointed out recently, I try to keep the story strictly from Balfrith's perspective, only providing the knowledge that he would have in a given circumstance. This is really just a manifestation of the writers' rule "show, don't tell". One of the exceptions to this is when I introduce a new place, such as a city. For such introductions, rather than writing a scene in which one ore more characters describes the history and character of a place to Balfrith, I have simply chosen to go with straight-up exposition. It's a faster and more efficient way to get the information passed on to the reader, and I think in this case it is alright for the narrator to simply explain things.

* * *

Drakenmount began as a simple fishing village at the mouth of the Wyrm-tongue River, situated along its northern shore. The coastal area where it sits, within the great Bay of Thror, is a complex of fjords that begins about a day’s march southeast of the river, and stretches all the way around the opening of the bay in the northwest, thence turning northeast and continuing all the way to the Sky-fork River. As such, it encompasses almost the entire seacoast of the nation of Nifflgarde.

Because of this great stretch of fjords, there are many fishing villages along the coast, each one sheltered and protected from the others, and operating independently of one another. This is one of the main reasons that the nation of Nifflgarde, itself, evolved the way it did: from hundreds of petty kings ruling over small territories that first ignored one another, then fought with one another, then began to trade and make alliances, and finally organized under a single high king, who was elected from among their midst and acted primarily as the first peer of many. Drakenmount followed that evolution along with many other towns, but it had the advantage of a strong freshwater source in the Wyrm-tongue River, and a larger than average fjord in which to shelter. The river provided not only a constant flow of fresh water, but it became a natural center for trade up and down stream, as well as across the bay with the Dedannan people.

The flow of trade brought wealth from other parts of the region, and caused Drakenmount to grow faster than the other villages nearby, so that eventually it outstripped all other towns within a hundred miles and more. And when the first high king was elected, he put his royal seat in Drakenmount, christening it as the royal city and making it the budding nation’s capital.

Drakenmount got its name from the tallest mountain that overshadows the region, rising up almost vertically from the sea on the north side of the fjord. Its peak was originally merely misshapen, not rising smoothly to a point but almost seeming to tumble upwards from its base, forming a jumble of oddly-shaped rock at the top. From a distance, and from certain angles of approach, especially the sea, the shape suggested the head of a great dragon.

In later years, one of Nifflgarde’s early kings commissioned a sculptor to form the mountain peak into something more obviously reminiscent of its namesake. Thus began a fifty-year project, one which spanned the lives of three master sculptors, two kings, and numerous stonemasons and other workers, until finally it was completed. Now, from any distance less than twenty miles on a clear day, and from any angle, the dragon shape is fairly obvious.

Because of this project, and its impressive results, Drakenmount has been declared one of the wonders of the world of Men, and scholars and artists from all points of the map travel to this place simply to look upon it. No one is allowed to climb the mountain, though many make the pilgrimage to its base, simply to get the closest view that they can. The locals, for their part, merely smile and shake their heads. They do not understand why such a thing should be so impressive, for all it took was a focused application of effort and resources, which to them seems not such an impressive feat.

Those who understand the local mindset, actually consider that to be the most impressive thing about the Nifflgarde people. These people work harder than most, and think nothing of it, even when the results of their work draws thousands of pilgrims every year to the most obvious evidence of their strong work ethic.

Those of a more cynical persuasion merely roll their eyes, and say that the shaping of a mountain over a fifty-year period and multiple generations is actually more reflective of the sheer bloody-minded stubbornness of the Men of Nifflgarde. They are, perhaps, not entirely wrong.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Word Count: 1-April-2013

Disclaimer: This is NOT an April Fool's Day joke.

I wrote another 1500 words today, completing the climax of the story and just about completing the chapter. I need to add one short scene to close the chapter, and move on to the next. At this point I figure I've got no more than 24,000 words left to write. There are several loose ends that need to be tied off, including the completion of a major character arc.

And after that, I go back and do a re-write, fixing all those areas where I had left myself notes, finding new areas of weakness that need to be repaired or re-written, and basically doing a whole lot more work on the story to polish it up. There will be many details to add, bits of characterization to improve, dialog to re-do, and assorted other writing, editing and proofreading tasks.

But hey, the climax is done and I'm almost through with the rough draft! That's a big step in itself, and I'm excited to have gotten this far. That's good enough for me, this evening.