Friday, December 26, 2014

The Joys of Country Living

Not sure if I have ever mentioned it before, but my wife and I live in a rural area, outside of a small town of about two thousand people. As such, we have no access to city water. Instead, we have a well and septic system. We also have a large propane tank for the furnace and water heater. The only utility services we get are electricity and phone. Also, we're so far from the telecom central office that our Internet "broadband" is an anorexic 512 kbps and we don't have access to competing services like cable Internet.

Don't even talk to me about satellite Internet. The monthly data cap is a deal-breaker.

Anyway, the point of all this really goes back to the well. We went out of town to visit family for Christmas, and just returned home today. And the water was out -- nothing, not even dregs in the pressure tank (a pressure tank is basically a storage tank in the basement that can hold about 80 gallons of water, and gives us a small reservoir to draw from). Now, this has happened to us before, and usually all it takes to fix the problem is for me to manually reset the pump. We have a little switch in the house for this, and I just flip it up and down a couple of times, and that has always kicked the pump on and fixed the issue.

Until today.

Today, I flipped and flipped, to no avail. Finally, I had to call our local well/pump maintenance company, whose name and number were on a label on the pressure tank. The guy came out within half an hour (thank you Mr. Dedicated Well and Pump Repair Guy!) and checked things, and in the end he determined that our pump was dead. Not an inexpensive piece to replace. Luckily for us, he has one back at his shop, and will come back out tomorrow to replace it. Outside, in the cold and snow. And it's about a 5-hour job.

Did I mention that I am very thankful for this guy? Yeah. So, it's not going to be cheap, but we should have our water restored by early afternoon tomorrow. And for that, I am also thankful to live in a country where such things are even possible. Like I said on Facebook... #firstworldproblems.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Spending a few days with extended family this week, eating too much, and generally having a lovely time. Hope everyone out there in the world is doing the same, as far as possible.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Characters in the Balfrith Story

Note on names: The nations of ancient Aerde are the forerunners of tribes and nations that arose thousands of years later in the current era of known history. Danannsidhe and the Vales were decidedly Gaelic, preceding the Irish and Scottish strains. The Men of Nûmidëa were the predecessors of the Angles and Saxons. Nifflgarde names are obviously of Norse origin. Sildaran names could be of Gaelic or Norse origins, or a combination of the two, due to the intermingling of those peoples. The allied city-states of Cychlos foretold the later Greek nation. The self-styled empire of Vilandria presaged the Latin cultures of Spain and Italy.

Adradomir (ad-RAD-om-ir) - Elvish merchant living in Castor, Sildara.
Aethelred (ETH-el-red) - Ancestor of Balfrith, received the gift-sword Branulf.
Aingeall (“Angel”) - Balfrith's older sister, born between Wilfrid and Balfrith.
Aldfrid - Balfrith's eldest brother.
Balfrith (BAL-frith) – The youngest son of Duke Osric, of House Aethelred, a minor noble house of Nûmidëa.
Branulf (BRAN-oolf) - Legendary sword, part of the history of House Aethelred.
Calunoth (CAL-oo-noth) - Sildaran free-lancer, a few years older than Balfrith, but much more experienced in the world.
Caorall (“Carol”) - Secretary to the provost of the School for Learned Studies, Sildara.
Colman - Provost of the University of the Arts, in Nûmidëa.
Diarmid (dee-AR-mid) - Deacon of the guild of free-lancers, in Sildara.
Ducca (DOOK-ka) - Professor at the University of the Arts, in Nûmidëa.
Duerde Stonefist (DWAIR-da) - Dwarven king of Stonedeep.
Eldamir (EL-da-meer) - Young Elven male, first to encounter Balfrith.
Felaranthir (Fel-a-RAN-theer) - Elven lord of Illithëon, and father of Eldamir.
Goslar (GOS-lar) - Innkeeper in Westmere, Sildara.
Gregorius - Lore-master of Sildara.
Halbrisien (hal-BRIS-ee-en) - Ancient Elvish king, father of Felaranthir.
Hallgeir (HALL-gair) - Warrior of Nifflgarde, free-lancer.
Layla - Innkeeper in Graystone, Nûmidëa.
Odrin Ironshanks - Dwarven captain, warden of Stonedeep.
Osric (OZ-rik) - Balfrith's father, a minor Duke, and lord of Aethelred Manor.
Roih (“Roy”) - Personal servant and bodyguard of Adradomir.
Sørkell - Nûmidëan smith who forged the sword Branulf, as a gift for Aethelred.
Wilfrid - Middle brother, between Aldfrid and Balfrith.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

On Dragons

My conception of dragons is that they are an ancient race (well... species), as old as or perhaps even older than the race of Men and almost as old as Elves, who were the Firstborn.
They are born of fire and anger and passion, and in their youth they are driven by these things to great destruction. They have no doting parent to teach or guide them, and so they live as animals, predators, for a long time. They are often hunted and killed in this stage (due to the threat they pose to peaceful peoples), so that few live beyond their first few decades of life.
As a dragon grows older, it gains both intelligence and wisdom, similar to any other sentient being. At the very least it will learn cunning, how to hide from hunters and so-called "dragon slayers", lead them into traps and kill them for sport. Sometimes a dragon will learn to communicate with other intelligent races, whether goblins or trolls, Men or Dwarves or Elves. A dragon at this stage may even form alliances for self-preservation and mutual benefit. However a dragon is still a cunning creature, full of the pride of its own strength, and will often betray its allies at an opportune moment.
Dragons continue to grow throughout their lives, and the oldest dragons are therefore also the largest, although not always the most powerful. They eventually lose the power of flight due to their great size, and some may even be unable to crawl or walk very far over land. But their intelligence and wisdom, and their cunning, never lose their potency. And with dragons, it can be truly said that "Age and treachery will win out every time over youth and skill".
The oldest dragons can often be found to have people and creatures of various races worshipping them as gods, dwelling in remote temples, and living off the sacrifices given to them by "lesser" creatures. For the dragon, this is as it should be -- they are clearly the most worthy of worship and adoration of all sentient beings in this middle realm, and thus deserving of whatever praise and honors (and sacrificial food and wealth) come to them.
Of their power, what needs to be said? All dragons can breath fire, and the heat of their fire is proportional to their age and size. While a young dragon can do little more than burn a few trees (or wooden buildings), an older, larger dragon can melt some metals with the heat of it’s flame. The most powerful dragons could cause iron and steel to run liquid in seconds.
Dragons also have the power of glamor in their eyes, which again grows with time, age, wisdom and cunning. This may be what allows them to become worshipped as gods in the later stages of their life, for they can charm large groups of people with the power of their gaze. Experienced dragon hunters know well that they must avoid the eyes of the dragon. Inexperienced dragon hunters often do not survive to learn this lesson.
Finally, older dragons sometimes learn something of magic, usually through the alliances that they form with other (magic-using) people or creatures. But a dragon’s magic is not one of raw destructive power, for they have no need of such. Their interest is in the gathering of knowledge for their own dark designs, foretelling the future, and deceiving others in order to increase their influence. In other words, dragons will use magic in order to increase their appearance as gods, and thus more easily and effectively deceive others into worshipping and serving them.
And that is all I know of dragons thus far.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Story News

It's been a busy week since Thanksgiving, what with planning for Christmas, regular work, and starting to plan my next novel. Sorry for the irregular updates, we'll see if I can start to post a bit more often now that I am starting to work on another story.

I've actually had a few "revelations" of a sort, while driving in to work, regarding Balfrith's stories. I had always planned to write several novels about his adventures, but in my mind they were standalone stories, with a possible "epic" level multi-volume story to cap it all off. They stories would have spanned a couple of decades, so by the end of them, Balfrith would have been near to my own age.

But what has started to reveal itself to me during my drives, was a way to link the stories into a larger story or character arc with a unifying theme. I don't want to say too much about it, since that would give away some spoilers before they have even been written. And of course things may yet change between now and the actual writing, or revising, of the stories. But in general, I think the ideas will stand the test of time and Balfrith's adventure stories will be much more closely linked together than what I had originally conceived.

Currently my writing consists of brainstorming the next standalone novel, and in light of the above, how to link it to Balfrith's first adventure as well as lay the seeds for the one(s) to come after.

I'm nowhere near to posting any samples yet, and I don't want to post anything like a rough story outline since that would be a major spoiler. So for now anyway, y'all will just have to wait for me to lay the foundation for the next story, and then I'll probably start to put samples up on the blog once again.

Back to the first Balfrith story for a moment... I am still going back and forth between wanting to self-publish, which is a lot of work but could be personally rewarding, and trying to get published through a "traditional" publisher, which takes much of the burden off my shoulders but is also glacially slow and also requires work on my part in the submission process as well as everything that follows if I do get accepted by someone.

I have had a few people read the story and tell me they really liked it, which is encouraging. What I haven't yet done is worked with any true "beta readers". That should probably be my next logical step, but things have been busy enough that I simply haven't gotten around to working through the details of that yet.

More to come later.