Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Celebration of the Long Night

The celebration of the Long Night is the oldest of Elefdar sacred days. It takes place on the winter solstice every year, and symbolizes the end of the old year, and the start of the new year. According to Elefdar history, or perhaps myth, the first Long Night was the birth of their race - specifically, they were born at twilight, just after sunset. This is also the origin of the term “twilight race”, which is occasionally used to refer to the Elefdar. Later corruption in the Mannish common tongue has led to both Elefdar and Dwerden races being referred to as the twilight races.

(Philosophers and sages disagree on how and why this corruption came about, though the most popular idea currently seems to be that from the perspective of Men, the ancient glory of both Elefdar and Dwerden are fading into sunset and the coming of night (thus “twilight”), while the Human race is only beginning to come into its glory, and is considered a “rising sun”. This may just be poetic thinking on the part of a few currently-popular philosophers, rather than having any historical basis.)

Whatever the case, the Elefdar believe that the progenitor of their race, Lofdar, was born just after sunset, in the first twilight of Aerde. He was drawn from the heart of a seedling of Yggdrasil the life-ash, by Illë himself. Lofdar’s wife, Eltahar, was born in the same way some years later, when he desired a companion in his work, and Illë saw fit to grant his wish.

And when Eltahar had born sons and daughters to Lofdar, they taught to their children the story of Lofdar’s birth, and set aside that day, the eve of the last night of the year, as sacred, as well as the next day, the beginning of the year. As the Elefdar spread out from their home island into the rest of Aerde, they took this sacred day with them, and passed its tradition on to later generations. In time, they also passed it to the races of Men and Dwerden, who adopted the holiday as one of their own.

The Elefdar celebrate these two days with much singing and merriment, the telling of tales old and new, and both fasting and feasting. Those having lordship are expected to provide much of the food and entertainment for their people, as part of their lordly duty. The lower classes are only expected to work, in service to their lord and their people, during the holiday. But they take shifts, so that everyone may partake of the festivities at least part of the time. The only time that no work is done, is the Long Night itself, from sunset of the last day of the year, through to sunrise of the next day. Food and drink are set out for anyone to enjoy, but it is only snack food, things that are served cold, and can be eaten with the fingers. Thus, everyone can feed themselves as they desire, and no one is required to serve or even clear dishes. The work begins again after sunrise, and certainly there is plenty of cleanup required, but until then, everyone is encouraged to celebrate the Long Night.

In smaller settlements of Elefdar, the Long Night is a simple celebration with the people themselves performing as singers and players, who enact the great stories out of history and legend. As settlements grow larger and local lords gain more wealth, they will tend to hire professional performers, and put on great pageants in order to display their wealth and generosity. Such is the case in Illithëon, where lord Felaranthir hosts the greatest Long Night celebration pageant of any of the major Elefdar colonies. There is a certain friendly competition between him and the lords of Illumïel and Ildallïe, but in the end, it is commonly recognized that his is still the greatest. Elefdar from other colonies will often make at least one pilgrimage to Illithëon, simply to experience the Long Night celebration.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Too Late for Merry Christmas, Too Early for Happy New Year

Well, merry Christmas (and happy holidays) anyway, and happy New Year too!

Today also happens to be the twenty-first anniversary of my marriage to the Geekwif. We'll be celebrating by spending the day together, and enjoying a lovely dinner out this evening.

Keep your eyes open for a new story-related post this weekend. Since I have a few days off, I intend to do some writing. Yay!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Chapter Five, Scene Ten - philosophical diversions

I had always planned for a scene showing that Balfrith's training among the Elefdar would include instruction in the wisdom of the Elefdar. This might include proverbs, or a philosophical discussion, or something similar. I had not actually decided exactly what to do, but simply left a scene placeholder in the draft of the story.

As of this evening, I have started writing that scene. It is not complete yet, but I wanted to go ahead and share it anyway, just to give you a taste of what it might look like. Of course, this being a rough draft, it could end up being completely different. But of course that's part of the fun of writing - the adventure of composing a new story, followed by the satisfaction of polishing it until it shines, even if that means grinding away the rough edges, in order to end up with a real gem.

Well, that's enough of that extended metaphor. On to the sample...

Incidentally, I'm not happy with the character names in this scene. But they will do as placeholders until I come up with something better.

* * *

Balfrith returned to his lessons a week later, after the new year. He sat now, in a circle with a dozen other Elefdar students, as he had done on so many occasions in the past. This class was somewhat different though, as it dealt with the wisdom of the Elefdar as consolidated over thousands of years. It wasn’t exactly history, nor was it any sort of science, art or lore as he understood the words. The Elefdar simply called it "wisdom", which meant little to him. For Balfrith, wisdom was what you learned as you got older. He supposed, since the Elefdar lived so much longer than Men, they must have collected quite a bit of it over the years.

Of course, he had no idea what that meant for him, personally. From what he’d seen of his father and other older Men, wisdom only brought sadness and regret, something which he thought he’d already had enough experience with, and certainly had no desire to get more of. But it was required of him to learn, and so here he was.

Their ceinad was named Theramil, and he had graying hair like an aged Man, though he was definitely an Elefdar. This was Balfrith’s first surprise, and it caught his attention immediately. How old is he, to have gray hair? he thought.

Theramil introduced himself to the class, and then began with a question: "What is good?"

There was silence among the students, but Balfrith caught a few of them looking askance at one another, as if to see who would dare to respond first. Ceinad Theramil looked around the circle of silent students, then asked again, "What is good?"

One of the young men spoke quietly, as if to himself, "Good is that which is not evil."

Theramil turned at once toward the one who had replied, and grinning, exclaimed, "Ahhh, a dichotomist! Little did I expect to meet one among this class, one so young. Tell me therefore, my youthful student, if you can: what is evil?"

The one who had replied, who Balfrith remembered was called Sulimon, remained silent. His face flushed with embarrassment, and Balfrith felt sorry for him, but not sorry enough to speak out himself. It appeared the other students felt the same way, as they watched first Sulimon, then their ceinad, but remained silent.

Finally Sulimon sat up stiffly, hardened his expression like stone, and spoke aloud. "Evil is to deliberately cause unjustified harm to another. All else is good."

Once again there was silence, but Balfrith noticed Theramil shaking with laughter. After a moment he replied, "Truly, all that is not evil, is therefore good?" Sulimon nodded, but said nothing else. "I suppose, then, that if I approached someone on the side of the road who had been deliberately, unjustly, harmed by another, they would therefore be the victim of evil?"

The student nodded again.

"And if this harm had left the person injured, though not in a life-threatening manner, what then?"

Sulimon shook his head. "What then, what?"

"What should I do?"

Sulimon shrugged. "Do as you will. But cause him no further harm, unless you be evil yourself."

"And what if I do nothing?" Sulimon shrugged again. "Is that good - for me to do nothing? For I have done no wrong, caused no deliberate, unjust harm. Is that good?"

Sulimon replied, "If it is what you will to do, and it causes no unjust harm, then it is good."

"And yet I have left the injured man on the side of the road, with no aid, no encouragement from me."

Sulimon said only, "You have not done evil."

Balfrith now got the courage to speak up, and said, "But have you truly done good? To do nothing, is to do good - is that your belief? At least as long as it is not evil? Is there no middle ground?"

Theramil turned quickly at the sound of Balfrith’s voice. "Ahh, the young Man among us speaks! And he brings the wisdom of Men to our small discussion."

Friday, December 13, 2013

Hard to Believe It's Been Three Weeks Already

I did not intend to delay my posting so long - sorry about that.

What I do intend, is to do some writing this weekend, and put up another post with a story sample - probably a short one, but it will be something. After that... well, I think I'll just take things one day at a time.

Oh yeah, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Time to Recharge the Batteries

The Geekwif and I are going with friends to a local Renaissance Festival. Actually, we're going twice - both today and tomorrow. Today, we will be dressed in casual modern clothes, exploring the Fest, eating too much and having a whole lot of fun. Tomorrow, we will go in full costume, in character, to partake of the morning festivities, and in the afternoon we will enjoy the King's Feast, a grand dinner for those guests who want to get just a bit more crazy fun out of the Renaissance Festival experience.

I've never actually gone to the King's Feast, though I have been to Renn Fests many times over the years. Our friends have been to the Feast a few times, and they convinced us to give it a try. We're both really looking forward to the whole thing, today and tomorrow.

The only down-side to flying across the country for a Renn Fest is that I cannot easily transport my sword with the rest of my costume. I wore it to our local Fest in August, but left it hanging on the wall of my den for this trip. The cost of shipping the sword here and back is simply prohibitive. I am seriously thinking about getting a dagger, which can be packed in my luggage, just for these cross-country trips where I want a sidearm to go with my costume.

The fun and fantasy of the Renn Fest, the pageantry, the characters and costumes, the whole atmosphere of the thing, restores my creative energies, thus the title of this post. I love coming here, and the chance to go twice in a weekend is just that much better. I always come away refreshed, inspired, and ready to get back to writing my stories.

Hope y'all have as great of a weekend as I plan to.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Fanyamar, aka Skyreach

As mentioned, I thought I would probably have a story sample to put up on the blog today. Well, here it is. On a related note, the current word count is 156,000, and I still have a bunch of additional scenes to write. At the rate I'm going, this story will be getting close to 170,000 words total when it's done - assuming that I don't remove significant chunks during the revision process.

* * *

The Elefdar city of Fanyamar, or 'Skyreach', encircles about one quarter of the mountain of the same name in the middle of the great Illithëon Forest, on the island of Nûmidëa. Its outer walls are some miles from the base of the mountain proper, protecting the outer settlements from encroachment of beasts and monsters alike. Of course, the "wall" isn't a stone wall as one would find circling a city of Men. Rather, it is a raised ring of land, an embankment, covered with a thick growth of thorny brush and scrub trees. Roses of many colors, red, pink, yellow and white, grow along the wall, their thorns adding to those of the brush and their flowers bringing beauty to the wall where one might otherwise see only a forbidding defense.

Several guarded openings are in the wall, to allow traffic to pass in and out. There are major gates at the west, south and east points of the compass, and smaller minor gates on the southwest and southeast points. The northern quadrant of the city, from northwest to northeast, is almost entirely up the slope of the mountain, and there are no gates as such. There, however, a few well-hidden pathways through the protecting wall of thorns. Of the true gates, the southern one is the largest of all, and is often called the 'main gate' or 'great gate' to the city.

Along the inside of the great wall are the outer settlements, large farming regions where fruits and vegetables of all kinds are grown. The Elefdar keep some domesticated animals for food and other needs, mainly sheep and goats, but they also hunt the surrounding forest. In the eastern quadrant of this outer region are also light industries such as tanneries, large forges for the smelting of raw ore, and other processes that generate undesirable fumes or by-products. The prevailing winds, coming from the west, drive the smoke and other odors out to sea. The chemical by-products of tanning and other processes of light industry are seen as necessary evils, things that must be disposed of in a way that won't hurt the land or the forest, and the Elefdar have found ways to re-use them in other processes, or dissolve them in the sea when no other option exists.

In all things, the Elefdar try to be good stewards of their environment. Domesticated animals are well-protected from predators and are provided shelter from the worst elements. Though they are no longer wild, the Elefdar recognize that they still have wills of their own after a fashion, and are allowed to roam freely within the confines of their grazing and pasture areas. Growing plants are tended well and kept free of weeds, though the weeds themselves are but other varieties of plants - simply less desirable for food or beauty. Trees are likewise tended, sometimes helped along in the dispersion of their seeds, and allowed to grow in open areas. The Elefdar prune both plants and trees, removing the dead branches in order that the main body might prosper. The same treatment is applied to undergrowth, so that the roots of the trees may spread both broad and deep in the earth.

A few miles inward from the outer wall is another encircling embankment, though this one is not covered with a wall of thorns. But it marks the border between the outer ring region set aside for farming and industry, and the inner region which is for the people to live in. Craftsmen and artisans live and work in this area of the city, in a way not too different than that of Men, with their working areas on one floor and living space on a separate floor of the house. Farmers and industry workers live here as well, and walk or ride to their places of work, as needed. This inner ring goes all the way to the lower area of the mountain itself, and the majority of Elefdar dwell here. It is in this ring that the great knot-work of paved stone roads is laid out, and the pattern of it can be seen from higher up on the mountain. The stone paving is pure white marble, and it gleams like the full moon under both sunlight and starlight, providing natural reflective illumination for anyone traveling in the evening or night hours.

Rising higher along the mountain, up through the tree-line and to the lower snows, the high city of Fanyamar is reserved for monuments, temples, parks and gardens. It is here that annual holiday ceremonies are conducted, as well as occasional Elefdar celebrations. From these heights, the pattern of the paved roads can be seen, a complex knot-work of twisting and twining lines, which somehow makes sense even on the ground where those roads are used. Also at this altitude, astrologers watch the heavens for signs and portents, and mark their calendars as constellations rise in their due moon. The Elefdar have long recognized the cycles of both moon and sun, and they know that there are thirteen moons in a solar year, along with other regular cycles of the heavenly bodies.

But the daily lives of most Elefdar are far from these lofty things, and more concerned with the harvesting of plants, animal husbandry, and the artistry and artisanry for which their people are known by Men, if they are known at all.

Taking a Little Vacation

Today is the first day of a five-day weekend, during which my wife and I will be enjoying doing pretty much... nothing. We're visiting some good friends in Texas, and will be going to the Houston Renaissance Festival on Saturday and Sunday. But as fun as that is, it's really just the excuse we use in order to come south for a few days in November and visit our friends.

I did a bit of writing this morning, and plan to do a bit more today and tomorrow. If things go well, I may even post a sample. Check back tonight or tomorrow, and you may be pleasantly surprised.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Chapter Five, Scene One - New Sample

Up until today, this scene was a simple place-holder with nothing in it. It is still incomplete, but I got a pretty good start on it this morning, and thought I would go ahead and post it now, before I head to the airport for my last business trip of the year.

* * *

The first day in the city, Felaranthir introduced Balfrith to his own house-hold, and handed him over to Eärolan thereafter. Balfrith was given a room of his own in Felaranthir's house, next to Eldamir's private room. He was told that Eldamir would be assigned as his guide, upon his return to the city. Until that time, Balfrith was free to roam the great house and surrounding commons, and Eärolan would accompany him. But he wasn't to stray too far, and he was not to leave the city at all.

As Eärolan prepared to step out, he said, "There are clean clothes in the wardrobe there. If you like, I can have a bath summoned for you, so that you might wash away the dust of the road. Supper will be served in a few hours' time."

Balfrith nodded in thanks. "Thank you Eärolan, a bath would be nice."

"Certainly. Just wait here, and servants will bring everything you need." Eärolan closed the door as he left, and Balfrith checked out the room where he hoped to live the next several years. As long as I can manage to live by their rules, according to my own vow. He wondered how difficult those promises would be to keep.

The chamber was well-appointed, clearly furnished for a lord rather than a commoner or servant. The bed was a thick mattress filled with down-feathers, softer than any he had ever slept in, resting upon a carved oaken frame with a headboard but no footboard. The four posts rising from each corner of the base frame met in a complex wooden framework above, hung with sheer linen curtains held open by soft ropes. It was similar to the bed that his father had, though the wood-work seemed to be of higher quality, as did the mattress.

The remaining furnishings - wardrobe, writing desk and chair, and foot locker - were all similarly made of carved wood, a blond oak that had been oiled to a golden sheen, and all were clearly a matched set. The carvings on each piece featured similar themes of vines growing up the boles of trees, intertwined branches, broad leaves of oak and maple and ash, and the occasional small bird hidden amongst the leaves and branches.

It looks like the forest, Balfrith realized with a start.

Just then, there was a quick knock at the door and then it opened, and two robed Elefdar servants bearing a wooden tub carried it in, setting it quietly on the floor near the wardrobe before silently leaving again. Balfrith glanced at the tub, noting that it was still empty. But within moments, the same servants returned, carrying buckets of steaming water with which they filled the tub. After several trips, it was over half full, and Balfrith undressed himself and climbed in, while the servants made a few more trips to finish filling the tub. Their last delivery was a smaller bucket, soap, wash-cloth and towels for drying off.

Balfrith sat back in the tub, letting the hot water relax his muscles and closing his eyes to rest for a while. But his natural energy returned quickly, and he was soon too bored to rest, no matter how soothing the water might be. He grabbed the soap and wash cloth, and quickly finished bathing, climbing out of the tub to dry off.

Naked but no longer dripping wet, Balfrith stepped to the tall wardrobe and opened its doors to see what awaited him inside. Several garments hung there, along with some folded underclothes on the floor. Two woven cloth belts hung from the inside of the left door, one broad and one narrow. How are these to support the weight of a sword? He shrugged and pulled on the smallclothes, tying them at the waist, and taking note that the Elefdar apparently wore the same types of undergarments as Men. He grinned at the absurdity - why wouldn't they wear basically the same garment? He also noticed the high quality weave of the linen, and wondered briefly if everything created by the Elefdar was of such a superior construction.

Next, he drew out one of the robes, holding it up before him to get a better look in the light. It was made of a lightweight colored cloth that shimmered slightly in the light, though it wasn't shiny like the satin that he was accustomed to seeing his father and other lords wear. It had somewhat the sheen of velvet, but was not fuzzy like that cloth - in fact, it was lighter, smoother and softer than any cloth he had ever seen or worn, and wondered what it might be.

Opening the robe as he pulled it from his wooden hanger, he noted that there was a pair of hose hanging inside as well. He pulled those on first, and they were loose and comfortable, sliding easily over the smallclothes, not snugly like the breeches he was used to wearing. The hose had a sewn-in cord similar to the undergarment, so he tied it at the waist, then put on the robe over it, noting that it had loops and buttons down the front to keep it closed. It was also shorter than he had at first thought, more the length of a tunic than a normal robe. After all that was done, he took one of the belts and wrapped it about his waist, then realized there was no buckle or hooking mechanism on either end. How does it stay in place? Shrugging, Balfrith set the belt aside on the bed, leaving the robe/tunic to hang loosely from his shoulders.

It was at that moment that he noticed the burnished mirror in the corner of the room, and stepped over to it to see what he looked like wearing Elefdar clothing. Bizarre…

Just then, one of the servants that he had met before knocked on the door, waiting this time for him to call "Enter."

He came into the room silently, and glanced at Balfrith quickly before getting to work cleaning up the used bath items. He left, and returned with two other servants, and the three of them lifted the tub, water and all, and carried it out.

Balfrith waited for them to return, but it was Eärolan who entered the open door after that. "Greetings, Balfrith. I trust you are clean and refreshed after the bath?"

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Scene Written But No Sample

I wrote the scene that I had intended to do, but it ended up being just a quick summary to tie up some loose ends, and came to only about two hundred words. Also, I'm not completely satisfied with it so I want to let my mind rest and think on it for a while, before I decide whether it really is a complete scene or needs something changed or added.

I also did some minor editing elsewhere in the story, and left myself a few notes to come back to. So, progress has been made, although it must remain invisible to all but myself for the time being.

One thing I want to mention, is that I plan to write the beginning of a Norse-style epic poem, something that would have been recited in the mead-halls of Viking jarls, a heroic tale that has a true story at its core but was exaggerated somewhat in a classic case of poetic license. That may take up quite a bit of my creative time, as I study the old Norse poetic style, and try to replicate it. But I think it will make a very interesting addition to the story.

Back Home in the US

Spent the past week in China on business, but came back home Friday night and spent most of Saturday resting. I am planning to do some writing today, and may even post a sample later on - depends on how far I get with the scene I'm working on.

I'll be home for the next week, then I have another week of business travel (all domestic this time), a couple days of vacation, and finally at the end of November I will be done with traveling until 2014.

Don't take me wrong, I actually rather enjoy traveling around the world, and am glad that my job gives me that opportunity. Sometimes, though, I wish I could space out my trips more evenly so that I only have to be away from home once per month, instead of twice or even three times a month. Hopefully in 2014 I will have a bit more control of my schedule, since I will be mostly settled into my new job and have a good handle on all the projects going on around the world.

I've mentioned before that I did P90X earlier this year, and was planning to do it again later on. Well, that "later on" came and went, and with all of my travel I never got around to it. And now, I've realized that I really want to try and "bulk up", more so than P90X is likely to do for me, given my previous experience. It's not that I won't put on any muscle with P90X; I've already proven that it will. But the bulk muscle that I'd like to see will take a slight change in my program. So, I'm giving Body Beast (also by BeachBody) a hard look, and so far it seems like it should fit the bill. I figure I should be able to start it up in December, after I'm done with my last round of travel, and have a good 90 days of being home to keep at it. Even if I do need to travel again before the 90 days are up, I can just take a "rest week" and come back to it when I return.

I generally don't ask for comments, but I would be interested to hear if anyone out there has done Body Beast, and how well it worked for you.

I guess that's about it for now. Keep your eyes open for my next post, it should be a sample!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Chapter Two, Scene Six (New Scene)

This scene is the continuation of the previous sample that I posted, which would be chapter two, scene five. I think I can complete chapter two with one more scene after this, but we'll see how it goes. For today, I've written this scene of almost 1500 words, and am happy with my progress. Hopefully you'll enjoy this log of Balfrith's struggles, and take some satisfaction in the results.

* * *

Balfrith awoke with a snort to the patter of steady rain on his face. He lay twisted on the rocky ground, pain throbbing throughout his limbs and body. He raised his arms and tried to roll over onto his knees, but a sharp stab of pain from his left ankle made him gasp, and he stopped moving. Lying on his side for a moment, Balfrith tried to think of a way to get himself turned over. Squinting in anticipation of pain, he moved slowly, one limb at a time, twisting his body over until he was on his hands and knees, with his left foot elevated to keep all weight off the ankle.

Releasing his held breath, he paused in that position, mentally checking the various pains in his body. Just bumps and bruises, he finally concluded, except that ankle. That may pose a challenge to this little adventure of mine. After pausing another minute, he thought, How do I stand?

Balfrith lowered his left foot to the ground, wincing when it touched, and gasping aloud as his ankle felt the weight and was forced to bend. He moved slowly, getting his right foot up and under his body, preparing to stand. Then, taking a breath, he pushed up on his hands and one good leg, rising shakily and struggling to keep his balance. Smiling, he exhaled again, relaxing a bit and letting his weight settle. But pain exploded up from his ankle to his knee, and Balfrith collapsed again, crumbling to the ground as he cried out.

The rain continued, and he lay there on the stone, gasping, specs of darkness swimming before his eyes, little representations of the pain emanating from his ankle.

I could turn back…

Where did that thought come from? Balfrith opened his eyes and stared up and the gray sky. "I’ll not be going back," he said aloud. And gritting his teeth, he forced himself to sit up, surveying his location on the hill. "Half way to the top," he muttered, looking up at the peak. "Might as well be ten leagues, for it will take me that long to climb, in this condition."

I could climb back down. No need to continue on…

Balfrith closed his eyed and bowed his head. "I will not climb down. I will not return," emphasizing the will as if he were buttressing his resolve.

Moving slowly, he got himself turned over and around to hands and knees, then stood up on one leg again as before. But this time, he kept his weight on the right foot, only letting his left touch the ground, but not supporting any weight on it. "Now, how do I walk?"

He hopped forward on his right foot, once, twice, three times, then had to stop as he almost lost his balance and put his weight on the other foot. Pain stabbed up his left leg, but he kept his balance, and his foot, and remained standing.

Balfrith looked around, muttering to himself, "This is not working so well. I must be able to walk, not hop. Perhaps I can find… there." Though only a few trees grew on this hill, he saw a fallen branch that appeared to be about the right length, a short distance up the hill. He smiled, then gave forth a grim bark, not quite a laugh. "Short distance indeed - this may be the longest and most difficult fifty paces I have ever trod."

Gritting his teeth, Balfrith hopped forward again, expecting the pain but still gasping when it shot up his leg. But he continued on, steeling his resolve. Hopping ahead once, twice… Balfrith's foot slipped on the wet and mossy rock, and down he went on the bad foot, then all the way to the ground and he cried out in pain.

Balfrith lay there on the ground, sobbing, as much from the pain as the frustration of his dilemma. After a short while, the shooting pain subsided to a throbbing ache, and he was able to think clearly again. This is not going to work, he thought, still frustrated. But what will?

I need that crutch. But I also need to strengthen my ankle, else I will fail at gaining the crutch, and this whole journey is over right here. He nodded to himself. But how to strengthen the ankle? And then he remembered how his father’s physician would tie tight bandages around injured limbs, and even had done the same with his own ribcage recently. That worked, somehow, to reduce the pain. Perhaps it will work for this as well. But what do I have to make a bandage?

He didn't need to open his rucksack to know what was in it - and there certainly were not any bandages in there. Just a change of clothes, a coil of rope, and as much food as he could carry. And of course the sword, wrapped in its protective blanket, was strapped to the outside with another short piece of rope.

I could use the sword as a crutch - just to get me over to that branch. That’s a start. Still no bandages though…

He untied the rope holding Branulf, and pulled the sword out of its blanket wrapping. Looking up at the sky, he smiled. Sørkell forgive me for abusing this creation of yours in such a way. Then taking the sword, he pressed the tip into a dip in the mossy stone, and used it to lever himself up. Though the springy blade bent, it did not break, and soon Balfrith was standing once again. He kept his left hand on its hilt, holding it close to his hip and using it as a cane to support his weight on that side. Then, taking a few experimental steps, he found that he could almost use it as a substitute leg - well enough to get him up to that fallen branch, anyway.

He limped the remaining distance to the branch, leaning on the blade as little as possible, so as to avoid damaging it. Though the shooting pains from his ankle had mostly subsided, its throbbing became more insistent as he moved, so that by the time he’d reached the branch, Balfrith was more than happy to sit himself down on the ground, even in the mud and rain.

Taking the branch in hand, he tested its strength, bending it this way and that, making sure that it showed no signs of cracking or breaking. His luck seemed to have returned, this once, for it held up to his testing, and appeared to be about the right length as well. As he prepared to wrap Branulf back into its blanket, a thought occurred to him. He took his belt knife and cut away two long strips from one end, just a few inches wide but the full length of the blanket. Then he wrapped the sword again, and was glad to see that its length was still fully protected, even with the blanket being almost a span shorter.

Next, he removed his left boot, took the strips of woolen blanket, and used them to tightly wrap his left ankle. He wound the wrappings from the middle of his foot to about half way up his calf, but concentrated the tightest part of it around the ankle. Finishing that task, he took his boot and pulled it back on. Though it was quite tight around his ankle and heel, he managed to slip it over the wrappings, which pressed them even tighter. Though he winced a bit with the pain of that pressure, he tested his ability to move his foot, and found that it was quite firmly bound. And smiling, he levered himself up using the branch as a crutch, and took a few steps around. This will work, he thought, nodding. And so, he took up his rucksack with Branulf bound to it, and set off up the hill, taking care with his steps so as to avoid falling again.

When he’d come almost full circle, he came once again to the place where he’d had to jump and climb the rock face. Knowing he would not be able to do that again, he back-tracked until he found a place where he could climb up the slope with a bit of effort, thus circumventing the risks of the other path, and in that way, he eventually made his way to the top of the rocky tor. By that time, the rain had slackened considerably, though it had not fully stopped. But even so, he was able to see some distance to the north, well enough to plot the next leg of his journey. And having done that, he set himself to the next task: finding shelter, and building a fire, in order to get warm and dry.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Balfrith's Journey Continued (A Re-write of the Previously Sampled Scene)

The scene that I posted a couple of weeks ago was alright, but I had always intended to make Balfrith come up against a significant natural challenge at the early part of his journey, and I so I decided to re-write the scene in order to introduce the challenge right away, instead of waiting. This now better reflects what I had in mind, and forces Balfrith to decide how badly he wants to get away from his father and join the Elves - is it worth risking serious injury, even death, in order to get away?

* * *

A few hours later, or so it seemed to him, Balfrith climbed out of the muddy fields and onto the stony ground at the base of the hill. Up close, it was a much larger rise than it had appeared from a distance. A few patches of grasses and a handful of trees grew up out of the stone, but otherwise it was rocky and barren. And while the climb appeared to pose a challenge, he hoped that at the top, it might give a clear view into the distance, and help him to set a longer goal for the next day’s walk.

And after that, his next priority would be to find a sheltered place to rest, start a small fire, and try to dry off and warm up. Though the rain persisted, he maintained a slim hope of finding fallen wood that was dry enough to burn.

Of course, that assumes I can find a sheltered spot. This tor does not appear to promise such.

Balfrith looked around, frowning as his hope dwindled. Then he shrugged, and started climbing the hill. First things first: he would get his bearings as best he could, then see about finding shelter.

The steady rain made the rock slippery, and he took each step with care, testing his weight before resting fully upon a foot. He made his way eastward around the leeward side of the hill, where the climbing seemed to be a bit easier, making a rough spiral around as he climbed the slope. Circling around to the north face, Balfrith noticed that the wind had picked up, and with it came a driving rain that made the going even more treacherous. The wind also cut through his wet clothes, causing him to shiver uncontrollably, and he had to stop more than once in order to huddle down to the ground and hug his legs, in a feeble attempt to stay warm.

Circling further westward to the windward side of the stony hill, Balfrith could see that he was about half way to the peak, and the wind and driving rain had become almost unbearable. He crouched behind a stony outcrop, as if it were a crenelation along the wall of a castle, taking what shelter he could. He rested there a short while, until it seemed like the wind had slowed somewhat, then stood once again and continued his climb.

He was only able to go a few steps forward, though, before he came to a new challenge: the path that he’d been following, such as it was, came to an end. Balfrith stood before a stone face that rose well above his head, blocking the way. To his left, up-slope, rose equally high stone, while to his right was a shorter rise of stone, which then cut off and dropped as a precipice many feet below. Looking around, Balfrith shivered, and sighed. What shall I do now?

He tested his weight against the low wall on the right, making sure of his footing before climbing up, knowing that he faced a long fall should he lose his footing. Now standing a few feet higher, he could just reach the top of the facing wall of stone that blocked his path. And he could see that from there, he would have a mostly-unobstructed climb further around and upward - at least as far as he could see in the dim light and driving rain.

Looking around, trying to find a good place to grasp and climb, Balfrith began shivering in the cold, and wrapped his arms around himself, hunkering down on the exposed low wall of stone, trying to regain what minimal warmth he could. But the wind rose more, and the rain drove on, and Balfrith realized that he had to choose then whether to press on, or turn back: he could remain in that place no longer, for the weather only grew worse, and his exposure became more dangerous the longer he waited.

Standing once again, Balfrith took a deep breath, and leaped forward to the rock face, grasping its edge with both hands, holding tight lest his fingers lose their grip and he fall. Pulling with his arms and scrabbling with his feet, he got his upper torso up and over the ledge, then one leg, and finally he rolled over onto his back, lifting the remaining leg up onto the platform. He lay there for a brief minute, gasping from the exertion and the cold, knowing he must rise and get moving again. He was still exposed there, even if the immediate risk of falling was now past.

Rolling over and up onto his hands and knees, Balfrith paused a moment to be sure of the wet stone surface, then crouched, and finally he stood, facing east, keeping his back to the wind and rain. He took one slow step, then another, for though the platform of rock was solid enough, it tilted somewhat to the right and downward, so that he was forced to take great care with each step, lest he slip and fall off the escarpment to the rocky level many feet below.

A gust of wind came then, and Balfrith paused again, holding himself still, feet planted on the wet and slippery rock. Ahead, he could see a small patch of grass, and he took a step towards it as the gust blew down. Another step, and he was on the grass, taking comfort in its springy squish under his boots. He crouched down once again as another gust of wind and rain came up, leaning forward onto his hands. After another minute, he stood once again and stepped forward. In a few paces, he stepped off the grass and onto bare rock, where he took care to plant his foot, then took another step.

And it was then that the wind rose again in a powerful gust, and Balfrith staggered from one foot to the next, leaning forward to try and regain his balance. But the wind came even stronger, pushing him ahead, and he lost his footing, falling forward onto his hands. The stone gave away, a single piece of unstable rock that slid to the right and fell clattering down the rock face, and Balfrith went with it, his right arm and leg hanging free, while he grabbed frantically with his left hand at a narrow lip of rock. He hung there while his mind raced, knowing his fingers could not hold him long. He swung his right arm up and around, trying to find a place to grab, but just then, the remaining bit of stone to which he clung cracked and gave way, and he fell, tumbling down along the slanted rock face, bits of rock falling with him.

His head struck the stone, and Balfrith saw stars for a brief moment, while his limbs and body bounced down the rock, before he finally struck bottom. The impact drove the breath from his lungs, and his head struck the ground one last time, before he lost consciousness.


Hi all, I'm back home as of Saturday and recovering nicely from the trip. Decided to take Monday (today) off from work, so that I could enjoy a real two-day weekend, before returning to the office. Planning to do some work on the story today, too. Look for another post from me, later today or perhaps later in the week if I'm still working on the same scene.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Off to the Southern Hemisphere Today

Per my last post, I was recovering from jet lag and said I felt a big hung over, which is normal for me. Alas, that hangover turned into a cold that I've spent almost the entire week getting over. My symptoms are mostly gone as of yesterday, just some hacking in the morning that clears up after being awake for a couple of hours.

I'm really glad that I only get sick once every year or two, because this thing really knocked me down for the count for a few days. It's a mixed blessing that I can work from home for my job. Rather than calling in sick, I just kept on working at home, doing conference calls and sending emails. Aside from the fact that people could hear it in my voice, hardly anyone knew that I was sick. The down-side is that I probably didn't get quite as much rest as I should have, but I did get enough to get through the worst of it, and today I feel pretty good.

The flights today amount to about 13 hours in the air, plus an hour layover, so my afternoon departure will result in an early Sunday morning arrival. I don't usually sleep very well on airplanes, not even on long flights, so it's likely to be a long night. But I can check into my hotel when I arrive, crash for a few hours, and then should be able to enjoy a relaxing afternoon and evening in Sao Paulo before going back to bed for the night. Temperatures there are supposed to be in the low 90s! Hopefully I can find a nice cool bar to hang out and have a couple of drinks in.

In writing news... not much happening. I thought I might do a bit this past week, but when the sickness hit, all I could do was get through my work day and then crash for the night. I was really hoping to be able to finish the first round of revisions by the end of the year, but with all this travel (and more to come, right through November), I probably won't be doing a lot of writing until December. That said, December should prove a good month for writing, with all the time off for holidays. I might just be able to catch up... time will tell.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Back Home and Recovering from Jet Lag

Landed in the US last night after about 11 hours in the air plus a 4-hour layover in Amsterdam. Needless to say, it was a rather long day. And though it was only 7 PM when we landed in the US, my body still thought it was 2 AM. My wife, the geekwif, was happy to meet me at the airport and drive me home, which was good since I could barely stay awake on the road. In fact I think I did fall asleep a couple of times. And by the time we got to bed, it was right around 4 AM subjective time.

After a good night's sleep, I still feel a bit hung over, which is par for the course when I'm recovering from jet lag. Today will be spent relaxing and recovering. Probably will do some writing a little later on, and if I do, I may even post another sample.

Hope y'all are having a lovely weekend. I'll be in the States for a week, then hop on a plane again next Saturday, bound for Brazil.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

A Short Sample, Continuing Balfrith's Journey Toward Illithëon

This is just a quick scene that I wrote this morning. I'm getting ready to do a whole lot of globe-trotting for the next couple of months (departing for Europe today, in fact, and will be gone for a week), courtesy of the new role I've taken at my job. Hard to say if I'll have much time for writing - given past performance, I would guess probably not. But being the optimist that I am, I'll hope for better this time around.

* * *

A few hours later, or so it seemed, Balfrith climbed out of the muddy fields and onto the stony ground at the base of the hill. Up close, it was a much larger rise than he had thought from a distance. He hoped that at the top, it might give a clear view into the distance, and help him to set a longer goal for the next day’s walk. For the moment, though, he wanted only to find a sheltered place to rest, start a small fire, and try to dry off and warm up. Though the rain persisted, he had some slim hope of finding fallen wood that was dry enough to burn.

Of course, that assumes I can find a sheltered spot. This hill does not appear to promise such.

Balfrith looked around, frowning as his hope dwindled. Then he shrugged, and started climbing the hill. First things first: he would get his bearings as best he could, then see about finding shelter.

Fortune was with him, for at the top of the rise, looking over and past it, he saw the clustered buildings of a freedman’s farm. “Well,” Balfrith said to himself, “I did not think to find such a thing within only two day’s walk of the mansion, but I shan’t complain of it. Now, if only I can prevail upon the farmer for a bit of space in his straw-barn, I shall have a warm and dry place to sleep for a few hours. And hopefully by tomorrow, the ground will have dried somewhat so that the walking is easier.”

So saying, Balfrith began the walk down the far side of the rocky hill, and across yet another muddy field to the farm house and its outbuildings.

He was fortunate, indeed, for the farmer was a kindly sort who took pity on his wet and bedraggled appearance, and allowed him to make a bed in the straw barn without even asking for compensation. And so, Balfrith snuggled into a warm and dry bed of straw that evening, with the hope that he and his clothes, most of which now hung from rafters in the barn, would be dry by morning. He wistfully thought that it would have been better if he had been able to travel by night and sleep during the day, but the rain made that impossible, and it was simply something he would have to accept. As sleep overcame him, Balfrith thought of forests, and Elves, and wondered if it ever rained in Illithëon.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Labor of Love Resumes - A New Sample!

As discussed yesterday, I'm starting the first round of revisions by going back and filling in missing scenes, of which there are several. Today's sample is the first of these, in which we see Balfrith on his first day away from home, having run away. In the original story, I summarized the journey from his home to the river Asca (where he first met Eldamir) in a single paragraph, but after going back over it, I decided that I really wanted to write this out. It will end up being about three scenes in total, I think, so this is just the first of several to fill in that part of the story.

* * *

Balfrith walked all night and into the next day, hoping to put many leagues between himself and his father - hoping to outrun or evade any pursuit. The clear sky and bright half-moon made it easy enough to see where he was walking, as long as he stayed in open areas, which he did. In previous attempts at running away, he had always been caught within a day or two. Well, except for the one time that he’d returned home of his own volition, sick with fever and nearly starved. But this time, Balfrith did not intend to allow any such thing to happen.

He walked cross-country, avoiding the road, thinking that would make him more difficult to track. It also allowed him to go in a relatively straight line, which he did by tracking the north star through the night. He reasoned that if the north star did, in fact, point north, and Illithëon was in the north, then it would lead him there. And if it did not bring him directly to the Elvish homeland, it would at least get him in the general area, and he could ask directions then.

Around mid-morning the next day, his eyelids began growing heavy, and he found himself stumbling as he walked. Guess it’s time to find a place to rest, he told himself, stopping to take stock of his surroundings.

He was in a farmer’s field, recently plowed and in the process of being sown with seed, though no one was out working yet that day, which surprised him. And then he realized it was Sonnday, so of course everyone would be at temple. Except father, he thought bitterly. He would be working at his desk, even on Sonnday, while Leofred took me and Aingeall and Aldfrid and Wilfrid to worship. That thought brought a pang of home-sickness to his heart, and he choked back a quick sob, taking a deep breath to steady himself.

While looking around, Balfrith noted a copse of trees just east of north, and struck out in that direction. A bit of tree cover would make it easier to sleep in the day-time, as well as shield him from detection. He crossed the field toward the trees, and saw as he approached that they bordered a pond on the left side, rimmed round about with cat-tails. Walking wide around that area to avoid the water, he made his way into the wood and found a dry spot that was sheltered by a fallen tree and some thick brush. The green of spring was taking hold already, leaves and buds coming forth on the branches of trees and shrubs, and grasses springing up from the earth. Settling into a fern bed beneath the tree, he removed the rucksack and set it on the ground nearby, then pulled his cloak about him as a blanket. Finally, Balfrith laid himself down, closed his eyes and fell asleep.

Some hours later, Balfrith awoke to the sun shining through a break in the branches and leaves, directly on his face. He blinked and raised a hand to shade his eyes, looking around to see if there were any signs of movement or disturbance in the area. But no, the wood was quiet, with only the occasional squirrel’s chatter or birdsong to disturb the silence. Through the trees, out in the nearby field, he could see people scattering seed in the long furrows, but they were far enough away that he couldn’t hear any voices.

Extricating himself out from under the fallen tree, Balfrith stood and brushed down his cloak, then ran his hands through his hair and scratched his head. The fern still glistened with morning dew, and he ran his hands over it until they were wet, then scrubbed at his face, enjoying the refreshing coolness of the moisture.  Finally he took up the rucksack once again and settled it on his shoulders, shifting Branulf in its blanket covering so that the blade wouldn’t jab him in the leg as he walked.

Looking up through the branches, Balfrith could see the sun high in the sky, and he judged the hour to be yet early in the afternoon. Smiling, he set himself in a generally northward direction, making his best guess, and started walking once again. The woods in which he’d sheltered were deeper than he had guessed, but that gave him plenty of cover to keep walking in the daylight hours, and so onward he walked, keeping an eye on the sun above and watching to be sure that it consistently tracked toward the left behind him.

About an hour later, Balfrith came to the far edge of the wood, and could see ahead that there were more farm fields to cross, with people out there working. Sitting down to rest and think for a bit, he decided that it wouldn’t be wise to be seen walking in daylight, for strangers would want to question what he was doing in their fields, and those searching for him might take note of a young man walking alone through open fields. So, he looked around until he found another shady spot to rest, and lay down there to try and get some more sleep.

Some time later, Balfrith was awakened by water dripping on his face, and the patter of a light rain on the leaves. His cloak was soaked through to his clothes, and the shiver of a deep chill ran through his body. “Rain - lovely. And here I was hoping for an easy journey in the sun. But I suppose the farmers will be happy,” he sighed at the last, standing up and stretching cold muscles, trying to warm up. Looking up, Balfrith could no longer see the sun. “Which way is north?” he asked aloud, not realizing that he had begun talking aloud to himself.

He looked about at the trees, and noted that a few of them seemed to have a mossy side facing toward him - presumably that would be south, toward the sun. So orienting himself, he looked far out beyond the woods to find a landmark that he could use as a guide. Somewhere ahead, perhaps half a mile, he could see a low rise that seemed to be about as close to north as anything, so he chose that hill as his destination. It wasn't any time near sunset, but the sky was leaden gray with clouds, and the workers had apparently all quit due to the rain.

It didn't take long for Balfrith to understand why they had quit working, for his feet were quickly caked in thick muddy clay as he began walking across the field, and the weight of it made each step an effort. Soon, he was warm even in his wet clothes and the cooler air that had come with the rain. But that was little comfort as he struggled along, step after slow step, trying to keep from falling down in the muck, struggling to move ahead and make it to that hill in the distance.

After perhaps a quarter-hour, he turned back to look at the woods behind, marking his point of departure so that he would be able to trace a line from there to the hill. Talking to himself again, Balfrith muttered, “At the rate I’m going, it will take me the rest of the afternoon to reach that hill.” He sighed. “Then again, horses will have the same struggle. Perhaps my father’s men will turn back today, and I shall be beyond capture at last.” He smiled then, taking some encouragement in the thought as he began walking once again.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Organizing My Work

I'm getting back to Balfrith this weekend - Yay!

But the first thing I need to do is, organize my work. In a previous post, I had mentioned a feature of Scrivener where I could view the scenes in a chapter as note cards on a cork board. Since going through the story, I have now given each scene a label and a status.

Labels are generally used to indicate the type of document I am looking at. In most cases, the label I used is simply "Scene", since I have my chapters broken down into individual scenes and each scene is a separate file. The only other label I am currently using is "Scene Needed", which was a custom label that I added with its own color code. As you can probably guess, this label indicates where I have an empty or incomplete scene that needs to be written, presumably with some notes reminding me what it is that I need to write.

Status codes are used to tell me where in the process a particular bit of writing is. Most of my scenes are labeled as First Draft, But I do have two other status codes that I'm using as needed. "To Do" indicates that there is some note in the labeled scene that says I need to do something. Usually the to-do item is minor, like adding some bit of description to an item, or reminding myself to foreshadow an event earlier in the story, or something like that. But I have also marked any "Scene Needed" cards as to-do items, since that is what they are. "Rework" is a custom status that I added, indicating that I need to do significant rework to a scene. In those scenes, I will have a note telling me what needs to be done.

Between the Scene Needed label, and the To Do and Rework statuses, I have broken my remaining work into 3 simple categories.

When it comes to organizing the work, I will focus first on the missing scenes. Those are the hardest, but they will also have the most impact on the overall story, and might force me to go back and change other things if I suddenly get a flash of inspiration or realize that the story has a major plot hole. Not that I think this particularly likely, but it is possible. So I will start with the big items, the missing scenes, and write those.

After the missing scenes are written, I will move to the items marked Rework. Those are the next-biggest tasks to do, as they generally indicate a complete re-write of a scene and again might impact the story depending on how they are re-done.

Finally come the To Do items - the ones that are not missing scenes, that is. These are the minor items, which are tempting to do first because they are quick and easy. The potential problem is that if I write a new scene or re-write an existing scene and change some significant piece of the story, I might also have to re-do some of the work in these minor to-do items. And if I had already done the to-do items, then I will just need to go back and do them yet again. So rather than making myself do the same work twice or three times, I will let the to-do items wait until the end, when all the scenes are completed and/or reworked, and I am on more solid ground with respect to the overall story, plot, characterization, etc.

And that is how I will proceed with the work on the story, starting today. Let the writing of new and missing scenes begin!

Sunday, September 15, 2013


After a busy week at work, including a couple days of out-of-state travel, I'm taking the weekend off to recharge. The geekwif and I enjoyed a lovely day with my parents yesterday, and today we will be spending the day at our local Renaissance Festival. The weather is forecast to be cool and cloudy, which is just about perfect for our costumes, which are a bit heavy (and thus hot) to wear on sunny or warm days.

This year we're actually doing two Ren Fests - one in our local region, and another further south where we'll be going with friends who live in the area. I always enjoy such outings, as the costumes get my imagination going and give me fresh inspiration for working on whatever story I happen to have going at the time.

Hope y'all are having a good weekend, and enjoying the change of seasons. I know I am!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Story Progress 7-Sept 2013, and a Cool Feature of Scrivener

For the first round of revisions to Balfrith's story, the plan is to review the story from a high level, looking at each scene as a whole, trying to determine if anything needs to be shifted around, merged, removed or added. In order to accomplish this task, I realized that I needed a simple way to view each scene as a brief description, just a few words or a phrase or two. That way, I could more quickly determine whether the scene contributed to the story as a whole, or was superfluous, and also try to find gaps in the story where a scene should be added.

Scrivener has a mode called "corkboard" that makes this really easy. In corkboard view, Scrivener lays out an image of each scene as a sort of 3"x5" note card stuck to a real cork board, like this:
Scrivener for Linux. Looks and works basically the same as the Windows version.

As you can see, each scene is labeled at the top based simply on the document name - for simplicity's sake, I just call them "scene 1", "scene 2", etc. If I move them around, I just rename them so they stay in numeric order. In addition, you can set a label and status on each document: I have consistently labeled them as a "scene" (thus the dark mauve tab in the upper right corner) and given them a status of First Draft, which is shown as watermark text.

I have spent the last week going through each chapter in corkboard view like this, and adding my little notes to each card. Scrivener does not add those notes by itself, you need to do that. But having added them, I can now view a single chapter as a series of cards like this, each one with a little note telling me what the scene is about. How cool is that? I've seen how movies are often laid out ahead of time just like this, with note cards stuck to a board, one for each scene, but I have never heard of a novelist writing their story in this way. In my case, I wrote the novel first, and have now gone back to lay it all out in notecard form. In retrospect, I probably would have benefited from laying out the Balfrith story ahead of time like this, defining each scene, before ever writing it. But hey, I'm new to Scrivener and new to some of the tools available to me that might make the job of writing a bit easier and more efficient.

Now, back to the story. As I mentioned, I spent the last week laying out each chapter in corkboard view and then adding notes to each scene. Of course, that required me to speed-read each scene in order to remind myself what it was about, and then summarize the scene in a few words. That alone provided great benefit in helping me to review the overall story.

And now, having done this ground-work, I can move to the next step, which is to review each chapter and scene at a high level and decide whether any scenes need to be shifted around, or added, or deleted, or whether anything else should be changed at a rough-draft level as I finalize the overall story and its structure.

The completion of this phase will probably take a while. I have already noted that the story is missing several scenes which will need to be written, as well as some existing scenes needing significant changes to make them "work". There are even a few I have tagged as possibly superfluous. I will wait until I've done some of the other revision work before I decide whether to actually delete them.

My goal is to finish this first round of revisions by the end of the year. Maybe I'll be able to get it done more quickly than that, but my work and travel schedule is going to be fairly busy for the next few months, so I'm anticipating not having a lot of time to work on the story. I think my year-end goal is reasonable, but only time will tell.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

5000 Page Views!

Since January of 2012, I have written 162 blog posts, for an average of 7.7 posts per month. Of course, in the past year it's been closer to one post per week, and I don't see that changing any time soon, as my work and life make posting more often than that impractical. I have watched with some satisfaction as daily traffic has begun trending higher. And today, some lucky person made the 5000th page view. Yay!

Welcome one and all, and I hope you're enjoying my little corner of cyberspace. If things continue trending upward, I would not be at all surprised to break past 10,000 page views in the first half of next year. Time will tell, and I suspect so will I.

Look for a more interesting post this weekend, when I have a little more time to think.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

New Story

I needed a break from the Balfrith story, so I decided to play around with a new story idea. Been spending the last couple of weeks on it. To be honest, I sort of fell into the thing, not really planning to put that much time into it, but I've been having fun, so I figured, why not just go wherever it takes me?

Of course, I still need to get back to Balfrith - that story isn't going to revise itself. And having ten unfinished and/or rough-draft novels sitting around on my hard drive isn't going to help me sell even one. So, I'll be getting my priorities straightened out in short order, and getting back to Balfrith immediately thereafter. The other story can wait a bit, and I might even continue playing around with it from time to time, but the main focus will be Balfrith - I promise.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Story Review and Goals This Week

I'll be doing a bit of business travel for the first half of the week, which presents me with a great opportunity to finish the initial read-through of my story. I figure I'll have a good hour of down-time at the airport going out and back, as well as some time in the evenings, so I should be able to finish by the time I return home.

I might even start going through my notes, and playing with revisions. I have Scrivener loaded on my company laptop, for just such occasions as this (travel and down-time), and Google Drive allows me to keep this version synchronized with the master copy of the story on my personal laptop.

Speaking of Google Drive, I was looking for a G-Drive client for Linux, and simply assumed that Google would offer one along with Windows and Mac. Alas, it was not to be! But, I did find a great third-party Google Drive client for Linux called InSync. They offer a 15-day free trial, which I'm about one week into, plus if you refer others you can extend that trial. In the interests of honesty, the link above is my referral link, which lets anyone download the free trial version and will extend my trial by another 15 days. As I said, I've been using InSync for about a week, and it works flawlessly. As such, I am quite willing to recommend it to others, without reservation. And I will gladly pay for it by the end of my trial, whenever that comes about, so I can continue using it.

Back to my goals for the week: finish the read-through, take a few more notes, and start the revision process. In the medium term, like between now and the end of the year, I plan to finish my first round of revisions. That will entail writing in some scenes that are currently missing, adding new scenes that were never part of the outline but are nevertheless needed, and possibly also removing some scenes, or merging existing scenes, in order to improve the flow of the story. In a nutshell, I'm looking at large-scale revisions for the first pass, the big things that are obviously missing, out of place, or needing to be radically overhauled. After those are complete, I should be able to do a second pass of finer-grained revisions, focusing in on smaller details such as refining my characterizations, background descriptions, and the like. The goal here is to start broad, and then focus more tightly with each additional round of revisions. By the end - however many passes it takes to get there - I should be focused on short phrases, individual word choices, and basic proof-reading.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Mortality of Computers, and a Story Update

My laptop finally died earlier this week - the video chipset is toast, so it sorta boots but the screen stays black which does me absolutely no good.

Fortunately, I have an older laptop that is still functional and actually in remarkably good condition, loaded with Ubuntu Linux. I powered it up yesterday, downloaded 450MB worth of software updates, and now I'm good to go. Downloaded the Linux beta of Scrivener and got that installed, too, so I can even work on my novel.

Eventually, maybe in the next couple of months, I will get a new computer. This one, while quite functional, is over 5 years old, with a dead battery, and the wireless doesn't seem to be working either (I think it's actually a Linux issue, but would need to install Windows to find out for sure). Fortunately for me, I can leave it plugged into the wall in my den, both power and network - I was smart enough to run network cabling while I was working on my basement finishing project, so both my theater and my den are wired for 100 MB networking.

Anyway, here's a quick update on the story: I'm still reading through the rough draft at this point, a little over a third of the way through. Per the plan, I'm not taking any notes as I read, except maybe a few mental ones. After this read-through, I'll take a little bit of time away, then come back for a more thorough read-through, which will entail taking extensive notes as I go.

I've never actually gotten this far with previous novels. Although I have completed several stories and even completed draft revisions on them, I have never gone to as much effort with those as I am planning to do with this one. And I'm doing the extra work this time simply because I want to get past writing as a hobby, and see if I can turn it into a money-making business. Not that I intend to quit my job any time soon. But slow and steady wins a lot of races, and I'm in this one for the long term, with no expectations of over-night stardom as an author. If I get a few sales on this book, it will be enough encouragement for me to continue writing and publishing more books.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Interesting Links

As is common for many people these days, I have a short list of blogs which I regularly read. One of the bloggers that I casually follow, who has a tendency toward polarizing opinions, recently posted a couple of interesting items that I thought were worth sharing.

This is the first in a series of as-yet undetermined length:

Here is the second post in the series:

  • In this post, the author discusses the importance of knowing how your story is going to end, before you even start writing the actual story. He covers the two commonly-accepted styles of writing (outlining vs. discovery/exploration), then adds a third style, autobiographical, which I would argue is not really in the same class as the other two. It may be a valid method of storytelling (basing your stories upon your personal experience rather than extrapolation or simple creation), but it has nothing to do with whether the story's plot is planned out versus "discovered".
  • In addition to the above posts from my own blog, I would add the following which contribute to the discussion linked above, and go to show that I am most definitely an outliner rather than a discovery writer:

Saturday, August 3, 2013

It Is Finished!

The rough draft is complete. Final word count: 149,693. Now begins the first round of editing, proofreading, and re-writing. I have plentiful notes of things to fix, change, and details to fill in.

I'm going to start by doing a complete read-through of the story from start to end, taking additional notes and trying not to fix anything except spelling errors. The point will be to give myself a reminder of the overall story, and let my mind digest it as a whole, rather than broken up into hundreds of small scenes.

After that is done, I will go back and start working through my notes, fixing and re-writing things as I go, adding details, etc. I will also begin posting samples once again, randomly, to show how things have changed between the rough and second drafts. You can expect to see my normal commentary on these as well, pointing out the differences.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Still On Vacation

We're still on vacation, but coming home today. I wrote a couple of paragraphs on Sunday morning, but haven't touched the story since then, so I guess my plans of doing a bunch of writing went by the wayside. We have been keeping pretty busy - not that I haven't had any down-time to write, but even during the down-time, I've spent most of my time reading a couple of novels and playing casual games with friends. It's been nice to set aside everything, even the story, and do a whole lot of nothing.

Of course, that doesn't mean I'm not looking forward to getting back to it. In fact, we're coming home today, and I still have a few more days of vacation at home before returning to work next week. And I fully intend to do some writing this weekend. I might even finish this rough draft - it is that close to being done.

In fact I have now officially set a goal to finish the rough draft this weekend. Look for an announcement regarding it's completion no later than Sunday evening.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Taking a Holiday

I'm heading out in a few hours for a week of vacation. I will be taking my laptop, so that I can do some writing if the whimsy takes me. Given that writing has been a beloved hobby of mine for many years now, and a favorite way for me to wind down from my job, I suspect that I will put some words to the page in pure enjoyment and relaxation, even while I'm away from home.

Actually, that has me thinking - what is it like for full-time writers? How do they relax, given that writing is their day job and not just a hobby or way to relax? I suppose, if writing is for full-time writers like computer geekery is for me, and if we naturally gravitate to something we love - then the saying is likely true: "Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life."

Of course that's not to say that I don't have days, sometimes even weeks, where I despise my job and dream of a career change. And I'm certain the same holds true for full-time writers, from time to time. But overall, I think if you can get up on most mornings and look forward to your day at work, then you're probably in the right place. Luckily for me, I am in that place.

But that takes me back to vacations. As I have mentioned previously, we recently went live on a Big Project. And since then, I have been promoted to a new, larger role in the organization which means new responsibilities, new team members, new projects, and new things to learn. Very exiting, and a little bit overwhelming at times. And since I dove right into the new job after going live on the project, I really haven't had any time to stop and relax. So this vacation for me is much needed, and hopefully I'll come back to the office with more energy to devote to all those new activities and projects and people and responsibilities.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

No Time to Blog, Too Busy Writing

I just realized that the last time I posted a word count, I was sitting at about 142,000 words. Well, as of today, I'm sitting at 149,000 words. I wrote about 2,000 words over the weekend, just finishing up this afternoon to bring me to that count.

Still focused on finishing the rough - so very close! I keep saying it, but it's true. And I'm also still looking forward to the revision process. It can be kind of a drag sometimes, but will be fun to go back and re-read the entire story from beginning to end, while making copious notes on everything that is bent or broken.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Nearing the End

I'm very close to completing the rough draft of the novel. As I've mentioned several times, it's going to take a couple of re-writes, maybe more than two, to polish it to the point where I would call it good enough to publish. I have many notes in Scrivener, and many thoughts in my head, as to how the story might be improved. The latter, those ideas in my head, will also be added to Scrivener so that I don't forget them.

Here's a brief and very vague list of ideas that I have noted as potential improvements to the story:

  • Add depth to the father's character, and show how the broken relationship affects him and the family
  • There is more to the character Adradomir than meets the eye. What is it?
  • What if Balfrith also left a girl behind when he ran away, in addition to his family?
    • How deep of a sub-plot would this become, and would it take away from the main story?
  • There are too many parallels between the Draugeborg incident and the that in the deep foundries. Should I change one or the other, or maybe make the parallels even more obvious so that they become an interesting sub-plot by themselves? If so, what should that sub-plot be, and do I need to resolve it in the context of this story?
There are many others of course, but most of those are of a more trivial nature, such as "Add an extra scene in here giving more detail", or "This is really dumb, must re-write!"

Anyway... I wrote another thousand words today. Probably will try to do the same tomorrow. If I can keep up this steady pace, the draft will be done in no time.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

I'm Baaack! Plus, A New Sample

Thoroughly enjoyed having Independence Day off, and even though I worked on Friday, it was a quiet day, and I did it from home which saved me a couple of hours commuting.

Saturday, I wrote a little over a thousand words. And Sunday, I wrote over a thousand more - enough to finish a brief tale that is told by Eldamir to the other characters. It's still rough - this is the first draft after all - but I thought I would go ahead and share it here, for your enjoyment.

And so without further ado, here is the Elefdar tale of the Guardian, known by Men as the Hunter, the northern-sky constellation known in later days as Orion.

* * *

Eldamir raised a hand and pointed up and toward the south, where the lights of the Hunter, or the Guardian as Balfrith now thought of him, twinkled in the clear black sky.

“Have you ever heard the story of the Guardian?” he asked, gesturing.

Balfrith answered, “I think I heard part of it when I sojourned among your people, but I remember it little.”

Hallgeir asked, “You mean the Hunter?” Eldamir nodded, and Calunoth and Hallgeir both shook their heads. “Aside from the name, I have never heard his story. The Men of the North have many names for the shapes of stars in the night sky, but few stories.”

Eldamir nodded. “Then I shall tell you. Long years ago, in the first Aeon, my people walked this middle realm, and we dwelt among the forests that blanketed the lands of the West, where the young kingdoms of Men now stand. But in those days, there were only the great and ancient forests, with open plains scattered here and there, and broad and shining rivers winding their way through the midst of all.

“And among our people was one grown strong and wise in the ways of animals, a great hunter under the heavens, named Amraphel. With his longbow, he could strike a falcon on the wing from a quarter mile away. He eschewed the sword, but carried a simple knife, sufficient for the needs of a hunter.

“It was Amraphel who first encountered the goblins, the burners of trees, and he brought the warning of their coming to our people, so that we were prepared when they came, and were able to fight them off.

“He rose to become a great war leader in the early days of the Long War, organizing our warriors into cohorts known as Guardians, and teaching them the best of his skills at tracking, hunting, and archery. Now because the goblins came in such great numbers, our people were greatly outnumbered, and several clans toward the east were surrounded and cut off from the greater western mass. But Amraphel took those first Guardian cohorts with him, and they waged war on the goblins in their place of strength, and they were able to free many of our people who had been captive to the surrounding forces.

“And they continued waging a war of attrition, even as king Toluir raised an army in the West to continue the fight, and prepared to set forth and destroy the invaders. But before they could come to relieve Amraphel and his Guardians, those cohorts began to be harried by the goblins, who themselves had quickly reacted to their attacks, and began sending out their own scouting parties to try and locate where their hiding places might be.

“So it came about, in the tenth year of the Long War, that Amraphel’s first cohort of Guardians was ambushed by the goblins, caught unawares, and they were slaughtered to a man. And the goblins desecrated their bodies, and left them as a message and a warning to Amraphel and those who followed him. But Amraphel became mad with rage over the slaughter of his men, those who had trained under him and taken the name of Guardian. And rather than take heed of the danger, he plotted how they might avenge their brethren against the tree-burners.

“After a time, Amraphel discovered that a new leader had risen within the goblin ranks, and it was this leader that had successfully ambushed his Guardians. And the leader’s name was Gudruk, which means blood-fist in the tongue of the tree burners. But though Amraphel now knew the name of his foe, he had not yet seen this goblin captain, for he kept himself hidden, surrounded by personal guards at all times. And though Amraphel and his Guardians approached closer than ever to the tree-burners’ camp, they were unable to catch sight or scent of their foe.

“Over many months he hunted this captain, and was in turn hunted, for the Guardians were harried by the goblins and slowly driven back westward, until finally king Toluir arrived at the head of his great army, and the Guardians were allowed to rest for a time.

“But Amraphel could not rest, for he still had not seen the captain of the goblins, and the thought of his enemy being captured or killed by Toluir’s forces was too much for him to bear. So, he gathered his closest followers, the best trackers and hunters that he had trained, and the Guardians once again set forth.

“They scoured the forests eastward, looking for sign or signal of the goblin captain, and though they scouted and passed near many a goblin camp, they heard only rumors of his whereabouts. Finally, early in the autumn, they heard that the goblin captain planned a great attack on the main army, an ambush that would surprise them while they marched westward to return home for the winter.

“So it came about that Amraphel consulted with his small company, to see if they could find a way to turn the ambush against the goblins, and make the hunters into the hunted once again. And after much discourse, they agreed to follow the main company of goblins as they went, to try and determine the path they would follow, and somehow then get ahead of them in order to wage their own ambush.

“They ran two days and two nights to catch the goblin company, along the way passing by the path of king Toluir’s army, and by this they knew they were on the right track. On the third day, they paralleled the goblins, passing them by on the south, only narrowly avoiding the scouts of the enemy as they went.

“And so it came to pass on the fourth day, that they found themselves ahead of both the goblin army and that of the Elefdar. Amraphel called a halt to their swift movement, and they rested for a time. Some of his men went out to scout the area, and returned with the report that the goblins had already stopped, and seemed to be preparing defenses for their own attack.

“And so Amraphel made his first error, for he decided rashly that they would attack the goblin army at the place of their enemy’s strength, for he feared for the Elefdar army, and wanted to prevent the loss of many lives in the ambush to come. But he also despaired of the thought that the goblin captain might be killed by some hand other than his own.

“So the Guardians turned back, and ran for another day to attack the goblin army. Now Amraphel was not so foolish as to believe that his small company of Guardians could assault the entire goblin army. But his thought was that they would wait until just before the ambush was to begin, and he hoped that Gudruk would show himself for such an event, and allow a well-aimed arrow to catch him unawares and find its mark. After that, the Guardians would flee the area, trusting that the goblin army would fall to in-fighting as the various clans split into rival groups each vying for ascendance over the others.

“And they came upon the goblin camp at night, but there was much activity all around, and it was obvious that the ambush was expected to happen very soon. And here, Amraphel made his second error, for he conferred briefly with his men, and then overriding their objections, he called for a feinting attack in the hope that it might draw out the captain. This was contrary to the previous plan, but the thought gnawed at Amraphel’s mind that he might miss his opportunity to slay this hated enemy.

“So the Guardians attacked the goblin army in its position of strength, and though they went with stealth to reach the outer fortifications, once the first arrows were loosed, they were detected and a counterattack was swiftly organized.

“The Guardians were forced to retreat in haste, having come under a heavy rain of arrows from the wooden towers, and goblin scouts harried them on the ground. They fled for several hours, chased by the goblin scouts, and Amraphel thought to elude them by circling back to the goblin camp. For he yet thought he might slay Gudruk at an opportune time, and despaired of missing the chance.

“But the goblin scouts had learned many things from Amraphel, and he knew not that they had studied his behavior, and the captain himself anticipated his actions. So the scouts got ahead of the Guardians, and staged their own ambush, so that many of Amraphel’s company were slain that day because of his pride and stubbornness.

“And before he could signal another retreat, they were surrounded by the clamor of swords beating shields, and the goblin army emerged from the trees surrounding the camp, having trapped the Guardians in their headlong flight to that place. And another hail of arrows followed, so that Amraphel was left with few men standing, besides himself.

“So they fled at last, hoping against hope to bring some word of warning to Toluir, a thing which they ought to have done from the start, were it not for Amraphel’s pride. But the remaining Guardians were few, and many wounded, so that their flight was perhaps doomed from the start. And as the goblin army closed in, they took a stand upon a high rock in a clearing overlooking the forest.

“The Guardians stood their ground in that place, hoping at the last to make a name for themselves for whoever might remember them, be it goblin or Elefdar. And they rained many an arrow down upon the enemy, who sought to climb the rock, but were forced to retreat three times under the expert fire of Elefdar bows.

“In the end, they were reduced to a handful of arrows, and the goblins brought their own archers to bear, loosing arrows in high arcs, to land in their midst at the top of the hill. And though they did not aim for any particular target, still they struck and wounded a few Elefdar, and Amraphel himself was pierced through the side.

“In the end, Amraphel gave up any hope of ever meeting his enemy, the captain Gudruk, even at a distance. And being the last man standing on that rock, even wounded, Amraphel looked about him at his fallen Guardians, and his own life-blood pouring itself out, and he despaired and repented of his foolishness. And he raised his hands to the heavens and cried out to the gods, that he and his men might be avenged, even in their defeat.

“Then it happened that Wodin All-Father looked down from his great hall, and sent his valkyries to attend the battle. And they claimed the bodies of the fallen, before the goblins could desecrate them, as Amraphel watched. For though he had not yet crossed over, his eyes were opened and he was allowed to see. And he smiled, and closed his eyes. But one of the valkyries, Eynhild, saw that he yet had breath, and she approached the place where he lay.

“‘Are you he who called out to my Father?’ she asked. And Amraphel replied, ‘I cried out that He would avenge us against the tree-burners, though we fall in this nameless place, and be forgotten.’

“Eynhild said, ‘You shall not be forgotten,’ said Eynhild. ‘For my father has seen this battle, and those that came before, and he knows your valor and that of your men. And at his command, you shall be immortalized, and your name shall live forever. Now, take my hand and rise, Amraphel, O Hunter of the tree-burners.’

“Amraphel, gaining a measure of strength at her words, stood upon his feet once again, and taking his bow, he nocked the very last arrow in his quiver. And across the glade he saw the war-leader, Gudruk, who had chased him to that point, and had finally shown himself when he thought that his victory was complete. And drawing his bow, Amraphel took aim and loosed.

“At that same moment, Eynhild called his name, and his spirit crossed over. And his body was taken by other valkyries, and laid in the heavens in the form that we see today. But his arrow was allowed to fly true, and it struck the goblin leader, piercing his mail and his heart, and he fell dead.

“And the goblins saw it all, and were sore afraid, and named his image The Enemy, and to them it is a symbol of hatred and fear, and they will not fight on the nights when he is high in the sky, for they fear it, and believe that they cannot have victory while he yet wheels overhead.

“King Toluir arrived then at the head of his army, and they met the goblin force in the open field surrounding the hill of Amraphel’s last stand. And the goblin ambush was spoiled, and the Elefdar were victorious that day, and they recovered the remaining Guardians on the rocky hill, so that a handful survived to tell the tale.

“That is the story. There are several other tales of Amraphel’s life and adventures, but the one I have told is the last.”

* * *

In going back to read this story, I suspect I will cut it down by half or more in the novel, and summarize many of the details to give it more the feel of an old myth, which was the point of telling it.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Poking My Head Out

First things first: Happy Independence Day! Here in the US, this is the single most important national holiday that we have, celebrating our declaration of independence from a tyrannical king and his unjust laws, and the birth of a new nation founded upon the principles of the Natural Rights common to all people: Life, Liberty, and Property. I could say a whole lot more on that topic, but I'm not going to... today.

The Big Project went live on Monday, and we survived. In fact, we not only survived, but we thrived. As with any Big Project, there were several last-minute challenges to overcome, and several challenges that surprised us over these first few days. But we're tracking them, prioritizing them, assigning resources to resolve them, and seeing them get resolved. And the best part is, while there's still a certain amount of stress among the team, we're over the hump. No one is shouting or losing their tempers, no one is pointing fingers or making accusations. We're working together as a team - and that includes not just the project team, but the team and the business together. It's a thing of beauty. Most importantly, the business hasn't suffered any major setbacks. We're still ordering materials, moving inventory, manufacturing product and shipping to customers. I call that a success.

I also got a big promotion at work, something I've been waiting for over a year to see. There were good reasons for the wait, Big Project being at the top of that list, but I'm really glad to have it finally, officially announced to my colleagues. And having Big Project behind me, I can begin to focus on the new job, responsibilities, and projects that have been lined up and waiting for me to tackle for a long time.

On the more personal front, I've gone into "maintenance mode" with my exercise. Actually to be fair, I have skipped my workouts for the past week and a half due to the long hours I've been working on the Big Project. But as of today, I am back on the exercise wagon. What does maintenance mode mean? It means that I'm working out 5 days a week, mixing resistance training with cardio. On the resistance days, I am doing the first half of each P90X resistance workout, where you apparently get 80% of the benefit. On the cardio days, I'm mixing Tae-Bo Advanced with some of the P90X cardio workouts. Basically whatever I feel like doing, since they all seem to burn a lot of calories, kick my metabolism up, and give me a good workout. I especially like Tae-Bo because it gives me a good ab/core workout right in the middle of the routine, whereas the P90X cardio workouts (Plyometrics and Kenpo) generally don't focus as much on the core. The flip-side is, I don't really want to do Tae-Bo two or three times a week, so that's why I'm mixing in the P90X cardio stuff.

Turning back to writing, today I get back to the story. My plan is to re-read a significant chunk of the story, to remind myself of the full context of everything that has happened recently, where the characters are, where they've been, and where they're going. After I'm comfortable with that, I'll be ready to start writing once again. Maybe today, but more likely this weekend.