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!