Saturday, December 26, 2015

Oops, I Missed It!

Merry belated Christmas!

Spent a nice day with family yesterday, and went to see Star Wars (2nd time) last night. I enjoyed the movie quite a bit and look forward to the next one.

2016 is already shaping up to be a busy and interesting year. Time will tell....

Saturday, December 12, 2015

New Map of Aerde

So, I stumbled into a pretty nifty website called Inkarnate. They've got a beta-ready web app for drawing world maps, so I went ahead and gave it a try. Below is my second attempt, the first try being a practice run.

I'm pretty happy with the way it turned out.

There are some pretty good tutorials on YouTube for the app, which helped me get up and running quickly.

My verdict: two thumbs up! I will come back to this app and check on their progress, as they have more features that they want to add (and that I want to use).

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Not Dead, Just Busy

Since my last post a month ago...

  • My car was totaled in a 4-car accordion (the rear-most driver was 100% at fault, not paying attention). No injuries, thankfully, but I did have to buy a new car, and I had to wait for my insurance check to come through before I did it.
  • Took a long weekend vacation with friends in TX and attended the Ren Fest northwest of Houston.
  • My employer announced an agreement to be acquired by a larger company. While the deal isn't expected to be finalized until late January (and it could still fall apart), the impact on employee morale has been noticeable. I'm fine with it, as I've been through acquisitions before, on both sides of the fence. But it does tend to make you pause in the middle of your projects and ask whether they're worth completing. Maybe the new company does things differently, and you'll just have to do it all over again in six months.
  • I wrote down a pretty solid character description of the antagonist for my next Balfrith novel. Includes motivations, some history, his strategy and tactics, and more. I've heard it said that the villain should be more than just a generic evil-doer. He must be the hero of his own version of the story. I've got that pretty well nailed for this one.
  • We moved to a bigger apartment within the same complex. With rents being down compared to when we moved in, we were able to get an extra 200 square feet, including a full extra bathroom, for not much more than we were paying before. Even though the move was a short distance, we still had to work hard for a few days to get everything transferred over, clean out the old apartment, and get organized in the new place.
So yeah, the days have been very full for the past few weeks. And this week will be business travel working on a big project out east. Next weekend, and the following week, will hopefully be pretty quiet. And then we're taking a week off for Christmas with family. So I probably won't be posting much between now and the end of the year, except maybe the week after Christmas when I have time off and am able to relax for a while.

Until then... Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year to you all!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Elefdar Alphabet, Continued

Thought I'd post a few pics of the playing around with letter-forms that I've been doing.

This is about the tenth version of the alphabet that I've created over the years, and definitely the one I like best.

Next to each glyph is the letter or pair of letters that it can represent. For a given letter-pair, the unvoiced version of the letter would use a single hook or loop, and the voiced version would then use the double-hook or loop. The P and B glyphs are represented explicitly in their single-hook and double-hook forms. Same goes for F and V. For the rest, the smaller hook is the "voice" indicator. The unvoiced letters would not have that second smaller hook.

Next, I took these rough sketches and drew them out in a kind of simulated calligraphy.

This one is actually four different glyphs combined: P, B, F, and V. This also makes it obvious that these letters (and the ones that follow below) all use the same semi-vertical stem, from which the additional hooks determine the actual letter.

Here we have W and R. Of course the W only has the lower hoop without the small stem above it. This doesn't exactly follow the unvoiced/voiced rule, but it works for these two letters to show that R is a kind of harder and more strongly-enunciated version of the W.

This is just the letter M. And this completes the set of all consonants that use the same vertical stem with an upper hook to the right and a slight lower curve to the left.

So if you're a geek like me, you may be wondering what the pattern is here, or rather what is the point of the pattern in these letters. It's really quite simple: these letters with the same vertical stem are all formed by and pronounced primarily with the lips.

If you go back to the first image, you can see that I arranged the letters into vertical groups or columns. The consonants formed by the lips are all on the left. The middle column is all the letters formed by the tongue behind the teeth: T, D, Th, Dh (voiced Th), S, Z, Sh, Zh, L, and N.

The consonants in the right-most column are formed by the tongue up against the palate: C, G, H, Ch (as in Bach or loch), and Y.

There are also horizontal groupings, as you can see in my initial sketch above. These relate to the kinds of sounds represented: plosives in the top row, fricatives in the middle, semi-vowels in the third row, and nasals on the bottom. This is explained in my document on the Elefdar language, chapter one, located here:

I actually now have all of my consonants and vowels drawn in the calligraphic style, just haven't uploaded the pics to my laptop yet. Anyway the goal is to take those images and make a clean font out of them. More on that soon (hopefully)!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Elefdar Alphabet

In addition to creating a language for the Elefdar, I am also working on an alphabet for them. It's gone through many iterations over the past twenty-odd years, but I think I've finally settled on a set of glyphs that I'm happy with. They have the look and feel I've been trying to get from the very beginning, and also have an internal logic to their design that was just as important as the look.

The sketches are pretty rough at the moment -- just line drawings in pencil. But I am working my way through a set of ink drawings that I think will look nice, and then I can scan them in so I have a digital master set. After that, I may even create a TrueType font! Stay tuned for more on this, I'll post the scanned ink drawings soon enough. Assuming I can manage the font, I'll post that as well.

Should be fun!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Publishing the Elefdar Language

A reader recently pointed me to Penflip, a website for collaborative writing. After reviewing the functionality of the site, I went ahead and created an account, and have now added my first writing project: The Elefdar (Elvish) Language.

This is based on my previously linked grammar document, but I had to change some formatting (Penflip doesn't do tables) and also fixed a couple of errors in the process.

Check it out, and let me know what you think in the comments!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Elefdar Language

I've been playing some more with the Elefdar tongue. Not so much with the language itself, but rather the alphabet I had designed for it something like 20 years ago. Hard to believe it's been that long, but it really was the mid-1990s when I first created them. They are heavily influenced by alphabets that I'd seen for Hindi and Sanskrit, with a high horizontal line intended to connect all the letters in a word, and the letter-forms themselves being hung down below the line. They were very curly and ornate, and at the time I really liked the designs.

Not so much any more. I've decided I want something a bit simpler, easier and faster to write. So, I started playing around with simple forms and pen-strokes, to see if I could come up with a complete set of letters that can each be written with just a few movements of the pen. So far I haven't come up with anything particularly exciting, but it is fun to be playing in this sandbox again.

Once I've got a set of letters that I'm reasonably happy with, I will be sure to take a pic and post them here.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

On Writing & Life

Wow, it's been quite a while since I've posted. Sorry about that, I've been very busy with the new job, not to mention taking some days off for extended weekends (and not doing any writing during those times).

I finished some minor edits to the Balfrith story yesterday, based on notes I had taken while doing my own read-through on a recent business trip. If nothing else, business travel -- and long flights -- gives me a chance to catch up on my reading.

The Geekwif also has a list of edits for me that I need to get through. May do it today, or maybe next weekend. Next weekend seems more likely at this point.

A while back I had mentioned starting work on the next story in Balfrith's saga. I have the kernel of a pretty good plot, plus a few character ideas, all written down. The rest is still in my head, rattling around like a can full of old coins. Kind of distracting really, but I'm looking forward to spending some time on the new story as I finish the last set of edits on the current one. Truthfully, I will probably be time-slicing these stories for the next several months, spending a bit of time on one, then jumping to the other to spend time on it, and back and forth.

That's about all I've got to say at this point. Mostly I just wanted to get a post out here to let people know I haven't dropped off the face of the earth. Hope y'all are having a great year!

Monday, August 31, 2015

Taking some time off, and a note on the story

After last week's "Blugh" post, I decided to take a three-day weekend, meaning I took today off. Going to relax and do nothing.

My wife re-read Balfrith's story for me over the past couple of weeks. She found a few weaknesses, which was to be expected, but overall she enjoyed the story. I, too, started re-reading it during some of my business trips. I'm about half way through the story, and while I do enjoy it, I will admit it's not a page-turner that I can't put down.

There's nothing wrong with that, of course. A book doesn't need to be a page turner to be classified as "good". That said, I agree with my wife that there are some areas that could still use improvement. And this is after about six rounds of revisions. Some days I think the work on this story will never end.

Oh well, I won't be working on it today, or even this week. But soon.

Monday, August 24, 2015


I've worked every weekend for the last three weeks. So very tired. Ready for a vacation.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Open Source Elvish! Elefdar Mini-Lexicon and Grammar

I've mentioned before that I was thinking about releasing the Elefdar / Elf language in some kind of open source format. I've decided to use the Creative Commons license and release everything I have so far... well, everything worth releasing at this point. This would include a document describing the grammar and syntax, and also a small lexicon containing the words I have developed thus far in the writing of Balfrith's story. I have tons of additional notes and working files, but they wouldn't make sense to anyone but me.

So, here it is. The first 147 words of the Elefdar language, with notes. Link.

Also, the grammar document. Link.

Every bit of Elefdar used in the Balfrith story follows the grammar, syntax and lexicon in the above linked documents. And the language will grow with time, as I write more stories and create and use more Elefdar words and phrases in them.

Also, I am open to input from anyone else who wants to use the language, help it grow, play around or whatever else you might want to do. Feel free to comment here, or if you would like to email me directly, send to "thurianknight AT gmail DOT com".

If you release any works based on this, you need to ensure that appropriate attribution is given, and any derivative works must be released under the same or similar license per the requirements of Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 4.0.

Creative Commons License

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Happy Independence Day America!

I give you the Declaration of Independence:

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only. 
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures. 
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent: 
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people. 
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands. 
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Working on the Elefdar Language

I think I might have mentioned it before, but I have been somewhat dissatisfied with my Elefdar language. Specifically, I just didn't like the way that some words sounded. While I have played with it off and on for the past couple of years, I had not made any serious changes until this week. Over the weekend, I started revising many of the words in my (currently rather small) lexicon.

At this point I basically have a spreadsheet listing all the "Common" (i.e. English) words that need an Elefdar equivalent, along with a column for my current Elefdar words, and three additional columns for variant ideas to replace them. By the time I'm done, i will have settled on different versions of probably 50% of the words in the lexicon. I'm mostly happy with the other half of the words, so there's no need to change them.

Part of the exercise in creating new words is to take the ideas and use them in the story itself, where Elefdar passages are already in use. Just drop in the new words and see how they look, sound and feel. It really is much more of an art than a science, as the aesthetic is at least as important as the technical aspects of grammar and syntax.

Anyway, hope y'all have a great Independence Day here in the US, and elsewhere... happy Friday and good weekend!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Colorado Renaissance Festival - June 20, 2015

We had a good day at the faire yesterday, walking about looking at the many vendor shops, eating faire food, enjoying a few shows and people-watching. This was our first time ever at the Colorado festival, and while we had heard it was a very good one, we did not know what to expect.

The weather forecast was hot, 89 degrees F, sunny and dry. We left early in the morning, in order to get there shortly after the 10 AM opening time. This kept us ahead of traffic as well as the heat. It will still only in the mid-70s when we arrived.

The Geekwif and I both wore costumes. She wore her newest creation from last year, and I wore a hybrid of my old costume with my new chainmail shirt and a few accessories. My own newest creation, a full suit of armor, needs some repair which I plan to do this week.

Did I mention it was hot? Our costumes are a bit heavy, and as such, we drank a lot of liquids yesterday. I imagine that not all of them were exactly beneficial in preventing dehydration, but we enjoyed ourselves and didn't worry too much about it.

One nice thing about the Colorado festival is that it has a lot of trees, and therefore plenty of places to get some shade from the sun. The Minnesota and Texas festivals have some areas to get shade, but not nearly as much as Colorado. We were very thankful for this yesterday, as you can imagine.

I had such a lovely time that I forgot to take many pictures, but below are a few (not nearly all) of our enjoyable moments.

The entrance...

... and me, ready to go in!

The festival is in the hills, and there were some lovely views through the trees.

Little kid riding a llama, because CUTE!!

I think this was our favorite show yesterday, called the Kamikaze Fireflies. The guy on the bottom was actually just an audience volunteer. The one on his shoulders was part of the two-person act, the other person being a girl off-stage at the moment. It was a fun show of juggling, hula hooping, balancing chairs in a Jenga-esque tower, a big steel wheel thingy, and plenty of witty repartee.

Like I said, we had a good time. And we've got some friends coming to visit next weekend, so we will be back again next Saturday. Hopefully I will have my armor repaired and ready to go.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Kind of a messed up day, er, weekend

Not that it was bad or anything. But my employer had a scheduled power outage at one of our nearby offices, so I had to drive in to work last night to shut the systems down before the power went out, and then drive in again this morning to power things up. Most of the systems -- servers, etc. -- can be powered down remotely, but we have just a couple that need "manual assistance", thus the requirement for me to be on-site.

So it kinda messed with my head last night, and then after a short night's sleep I had to get up early and do it all over again. By noon today I was back home, but any chance at having a normal Sunday was pretty well shot. I enjoyed a casual afternoon and evening with the Geekwif, but didn't really do much -- and I skipped out on the writing. Too brain-dead from working and being tired.

And tomorrow, I get up way too early yet again in order to catch a flight out east for a week of meetings. Fun.

Next weekend we will be going to the Denver Renaissance Festival. Not sure if it will be Saturday or Sunday, but we will definitely be there. In costume. And that will be fun.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Still making progress through the to-do list

The good news is, I'm still working my way through the to-do list and have made a few more of the planned changes to my story. But at this point I'm not prepared to share another sample, as the changes are too minor to show off. In the grand scheme of the story, they definitely make a difference. But in the context of a single scene, the changes are a bit subtle and I think they wouldn't make much impact if read separately from the story as a whole.

Not much else to say right now. I haven't spent as much time working on the story as I would like, but at the same time I am making progress, so I guess that's something. And it seems like I'm always saying the same thing: wish I could spend more time writing, yada yada. I think if I really wanted to, I could spend more time writing and less time doing other things... it's all about priorities really. The current priority of the story is such that I give it a few hours a week, usually Sunday mornings, and that's sufficient to keep making progress, albeit slowly. And I am mostly satisfied with that, even if I often claim otherwise.

Hope y'all have a great day and week! Today is shaping up to be a beautiful one in Denver, and I'll be going out for a run in a little while, to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

New/Old Sample! Chapter Nine, Scene Seven (originally Ch 8.6)

As I work my way through the to-do list, I had to re-write most of the below scene. I liked it well enough (here's the original, from January 2013), but my beta readers and I both agreed that it needed to reveal more about the sword, and advance the story further, than it did in its old form. This new version accomplishes that goal, and also sets up a bit of foreshadowing that builds tension sooner and allows me to develop the character of the sword more in following chapters.

Even after several revisions, whenever I need to go back and re-write something it's like starting a new rough draft. This scene will probably need some additional polishing, but here it is for your enjoyment!

* * *

The next day, they arrived at the professor’s office shortly after breaking their fast. Balfrith carried Branulf uncovered, slung in its baldric over his shoulder. Its weight dragged at him, irritating the area just between his shoulder blades, but he shifted the baldric around and tried to ignore it. Approaching the door, they found it slightly ajar, and pushed it further open to step in. Ducca was already there, and it appeared that he was just finishing some preparations, for he said, “Ah, good morning to you both! Please take a seat, I am almost ready.”

Balfrith and Eldamir sat in the same chairs as they had the previous day, and Ducca went about the room, picking up several books and a few other odds and ends that Balfrith didn’t recognize, putting them into a satchel that he had slung from his shoulder. Finally he turned back to them, nodded, and said, “Alright then, I’m ready—let us go.”

Leading them out of his office, Ducca turned back and closed the door, locking it, then proceeded up a branching hall and down some stairs, before finally approaching a closed door at the end of another hall. Pulling a key from his satchel, he opened the door and led them in.

Balfrith was amazed at what he saw inside. There were shelves upon shelves of books and scrolls, so many that Balfrith wondered why Ducca had brought even more with him in the satchel. In addition, there were several long ironbound wooden tables, with glass and metal apparatuses that Balfrith didn’t recognize—he assumed they were some kind of magical implements.

Setting his satchel on the nearest table, Ducca turned to Balfrith and said, “Please remove the sword from its scabbard, and lay it here.” Balfrith did as he was asked, grateful to be rid of its burden, and waited as Ducca emptied the satchel onto the working surface. The books were set in a small stack off to the side, and the other items—still unrecognizable to Balfrith—were clustered together.

The professor took two of the small objects and set them about three feet apart, lining them up lengthwise along the table. Balfrith realized that they were small stands. Immediately after that, Ducca lifted the sword and laid it on top of them, so that one stand was under the grip, and the other was out near the blade tip. The sword now rested a few inches above the surface of the table.

Taking five more of the small metallic objects, different than the previous ones, Ducca set them at evenly-spaced points surrounding the sword: one at the blade tip, two on either side of the pommel, and the other two about a third of the distance between the blade tip and the hilt, set further away than the two near the pommel, so that they were laid out in a pentagonal shape surrounding Branulf. These objects were pyramidal in form, and had small glass jewels at their peaks.

Ducca set one last object, a glass lens of some sort Balfrith thought, a few inches away from the pyramid nearest the blade tip. Finally, he set a small candle next to the lens.

Eldamir interrupted his preparations. “Professor, if I may ask—what are these implements, and what are you planning to do with them?”

Ducca said, “These, my Elefdar friend, are the foci of a spell which I’m about to cast. One which will hopefully give us some indication of whether there is any enchantment upon the sword, and if so, whether it be malignant or benign. Now, if you don’t mind, I need you to remain silent while I complete my preparations for the spell, and also during the casting of the spell itself.”

Balfrith, growing excited at the prospect of seeing real magic, said, “How will we know when the spell is cast? Will there be a flash of light, or a cloud of smoke, or something?”

Ducca smiled, “Nothing quite so crude, I’m afraid, master Balfrith. There will be a ray of light, however, and it will fade when the spell is complete. But after it fades, wait for me to speak first, for it may take me some time to come out of the trance. Now, please take a seat over there, and I will begin the spell. Remember, no interruptions.” He said the last while waggling a finger at Balfrith.

Balfrith and Eldamir sat on the chairs, which were set some distance back from the tables and other apparatuses, presumably to keep observers at a safe distance. But safe from what? thought Balfrith.

Ducca reached into his satchel and pulled out one last item, a scroll case made of bone and heavily engraved with unrecognizable symbols. Removing the stopper at one end, he gently pulled out the scroll within, setting the case aside and unrolling the parchment. Ducca scanned the text for some minutes, and Balfrith watched as his eyes flitted back and forth, from row to row. It looked like he was memorizing it, Balfrith thought.

Finally he set the parchment aside, and it sprang back to its rolled-up state, having been encased that way for so long. Raising his hands, Ducca began to recite words in a language that Balfrith had never heard. Were they words of a magical tongue, or just another tongue of Men? he wondered. There were some that sounded vaguely like Elefdar, but he couldn’t be certain. Eldamir, too, watched closely, but he showed no reaction to the words.

Ducca spoke on, gesturing with a hand-wave toward the candle, and it spontaneously burst into flame. Balfrith jumped, but the flash subsided quickly and all that was left was a small tongue of fire, burning steadily. The professor spoke again, moving his hands over the blade, and Balfrith saw a ray of light, like sunlight through a cloud, emanate from the lens and strike the nearest of the pyramids—the foci, as Ducca had called them—surrounding the sword.

And then the light changed color, from soft yellow to warm red, as it passed from pyramid to pyramid, the jewels glowing with the same crimson color: Branulf was encircled by rays of reddish light. Balfrith watched, entranced, as the professor continued chanting in the strange tongue, passing his hands over the sword and swaying where he stood. His eyes were closed, Balfrith noticed, and yet he appeared to be observing a scene play out in the air above the sword.

Then, hovering above the sword, a different light appeared: two glowing orbs of baleful yellow, like eyes, glaring at Ducca as at a hated enemy. The temperature in the room dropped suddenly with their appearance, and Balfrith felt the hackles rise on the back of his neck.

Snaga! Dor maghlo nethelga!” exclaimed Eldamir, jumping up with a snarl and pointing at the yellow orbs. Ducca staggered backwards as if struck, falling into some wooden shelves behind him and knocking several glass implements to the floor where they shattered.

Then the heavy table shuddered, jumping and shaking, knocking the sword off its stands. A gust of wind blew through the room extinguishing the candle, and all lights in the room blinked out: the candle, the rays, and the eyes. Balfrith, bewildered, stood motionless in shock. The darkness in the room was complete.

He heard the sound of footsteps scratching through glass as they moved across the floor, then the door opened, letting in ambient light from the hall. Ducca stood there, head bowed and breathing heavily.

Balfrith caught the scent of brimstone, and exclaimed, “What in the seven hells was that?

Ducca remained silent in the doorframe, leaning against it, eyes closed and swaying a bit. He inhaled deeply, then turned and answered, “I think, my young friend, that we have just met the very embodiment of the curse. I know not how such a thing came to be, for I have never read of anything like this.” He took another deep breath, exhaling loudly. “Forgive me, that was… a very taxing experience. Please give me a moment to clear my mind.”

He continued breathing slowly, deeply, muttering something under his breath that Balfrith couldn’t quite catch. Was it another spell, maybe something to speed his recovery?

Finally Ducca opened his eyes again, stood upright, and he smiled slightly. “Ah, that is better. Now, would you both be so kind as to help me clean up this mess? Eldamir, there is a broom and dustpan in the corner. Balfrith, you may take the sword and sheath it. I will gather what remains of my tools.” They moved quickly, picking up fallen items and sweeping up the broken glass, and soon the room was back in order.

Balfrith, carrying Branulf even more nervously than he ever had in the past, asked, “Is this thing safe to carry? To think I’ve had it with me all this time…”

Eldamir added, “And yet it has remained dormant until now. Perhaps it was Ducca’s magic that awakened the thing.”

Balfrith looked askance at his friend. “You reacted as if you recognized it. What was that you said?”

“I… it was merely an instinctive response. Those yellow orbs… I do not know what they were, but I could sense their malevolence. Could you not likewise?”

“Aye, I sensed something too.” Balfrith shrugged it off, and gingerly hung the sword in its baldric over a shoulder. Turning to Ducca, he said, “Did you sense anything, professor?”

Ducca shook his head and replied, “Nay, master Balfrith, for it came suddenly and without warning. But let us retire to my office. We will have more privacy there, and freedom to talk openly.”

Ducca led them back up the stairs and around the halls to his office once again. He laid the satchel upon a shelf, no doubt a temporary resting place until he could put everything back where it belonged, and sat behind his desk while Balfrith and Eldamir took their own seats.

After everyone was comfortable, Ducca began, “I said before that I have never read of anything like this, and it is true. But I have heard of creatures, spirits of shadow, that may be somehow related. This is not my area of expertise, so I cannot speak with authority on the topic. But those yellow orbs, like eyes, brought to memory something I once read many years ago. I do not know if you sensed it like I did, but there was an intelligence there. An ancient malice, a hatred of all living things.” He paused, thinking, then leaned back in his chair and added, “I cannot say more, for it was only a feeling, though a strong one. I am sure of its hatred, for I felt it burn towards me, before the thing shattered my spell. It clearly did not wish to be discovered and named, else why disrupt my casting in such a violent manner?”

They were all silent for a while, and then Eldamir broke the silence. “I, too, lack experience in matters of the spirit realm. But my people also have stories, legends, of demons and other beings that dwell in outer darkness. I would venture a guess that this thing was one such creature.”

Balfrith asked, “What do we do about it? What can we do? I know nothing of demons and spirits either. Can such a creature be fought, banished from the realm of the living? For my goal remains unchanged—I must find a way to cleanse the sword of this… taint.”

Ducca replied, “Let me tell you, first, something that I sensed just before the spirit-thing manifested. For though the spell was interrupted, I had already started to get a sense of something from the sword. And it was not the malevolent thing which appeared before us, but a sense of benign power linked to the blade in a way that I do not fully understand. It may be something of Elefdar magic, perhaps… I know not. But it was there, and I was on the cusp of getting a better sense of this power before the spell was broken.

“And with that in mind, it seems to me that we are actually looking at two powers connected to the sword. Perhaps they war with one another, or perhaps they are not even aware of the other. If I were to speculate, I might suggest that the reason the dark power has not caused greater harm to you thus far in your journeys, is the existence of the benevolent power. Even now, the small discernment I received from the spell is enough for me to still sense that power. The darker power is gone, but the benign remains.

“So now we come to it: what can be done? My best answer for you is that you must continue your search. But with what we have gleaned from this experience, I might offer you some advice. I have a colleague who resides at the School for Learned Studies, in Sildara. He has spent some years studying ancient texts relating to the old gods and powers of the outer realms. The last time we spoke, some years ago, he was writing a treatise on spiritual incursions. I think if anyone would have insight into the curse on your sword, and what we have seen here, it would be him.”

Ducca stood then, and Balfrith and Eldamir did as well. Balfrith said, “Professor, you have my thanks for your efforts in assisting us in this matter. Though we did not exactly get the answers I sought, your advice may save us much time in our further searching.”

Ducca replied, “Stop by my office tomorrow morning, and I will give you a letter of recommendation to my colleague in Sildara. Since you have already traveled somewhat to meet with me, I assume you are prepared for further journeys?” Balfrith nodded, and he continued, “In addition to his spiritual studies, he is almost as knowledgeable in the area of enchantments and discernment as I am. He may also have other ideas for research, perhaps something I did not think of here.”

Balfrith nodded and said, “Again, professor, you have my thanks. We shall stop by tomorrow morning after breakfast. And it just now occurs to me—does the university have means for me to send a letter? For I would send news of my journey to my father, duke Osric, before we board ship.”

Ducca nodded. “Aye, we do indeed, and I regularly have correspondence with some colleagues at Kings’ Reach in the west. I would be happy to take your letter and ensure it is sent on, along with my own communiques.”

Balfrith nodded in thanks. They departed then, saying their goodbyes to the professor as he closed the door. He shifted Branulf in its baldric, the feel of it against his back causing a prickling up his spine. A pair of baleful yellow orbs flashed in his memory for a moment, and he shook his head to clear the image.

Walking back to the inn, Balfrith said, “I suppose we should plan to depart tomorrow, after we meet with Ducca. There’s nothing holding us here, and I would be on a ship bound for Sildara sooner than late.”

Eldamir agreed, saying, “Aye, it will be good to have the road under our feet again—and soon enough, the sea. I’ve not breathed the sea air in some time, and it calls to me even now.”

Balfrith could only nod, never having seen the sea. The great Kingfisher Bay was as close as he’d ever come, and while it was quite large—too wide to see the far shore—it still wasn’t the actual sea. But that would change soon enough.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Thank you [Memorial Day 2015]

To all of the United States military service members scattered around the world, both active and inactive, you have my heartfelt thanks.

Today of course is the day we remember and give special honor to those who have died in service to their country. I have several relatives who have served in different branches of the military through the years. My family is fortunate that they all came back home from their various tours. But for those who have given the ultimate sacrifice, both past and present, we remember and thank you for that.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Work and Dreams

This weekend, Memorial Day holiday weekend for those who may not be aware, I have to work. Not just garden work or yard work, not even writing work -- job work. We're doing an ERP upgrade starting late Saturday night, running through to Sunday afternoon. My team's part should be done by early Sunday morning. Then the applications group and some business users will begin their testing. Me and my team will be on call for the next few hours of testing, possibly longer if we run into any problems.

Monday, we have 2 sites outside the US that will be working, so once again we will be on call. Basically I need to stay around the apartment, near my laptop, for the duration of the holiday weekend.

The good news is that there has been months of preparation beforehand, well before I even started this job. And while we've had some pointed discussions and debates in the past days over whether we were really ready to go live or not, as of a few days ago I finally became confident that we were ready to go. And I am likewise confident that aside from working a very long day today (Saturday into Sunday), I think we will have a quiet holiday weekend and things will go fine.

I say all this because I have a funny story to tell. Thursday night I had a very restless night's sleep, filled with strange and vivid dreams, one of which I still remember...

I had been chosen to fill the lead role in a new musical play at some local theater, and was looking forward to the first practice as it sounded like it would be a lot of fun. But when I arrived at the theater, I discovered that it wasn't for the first practice -- this was opening night. I had not yet seen the script, I hadn't even met my fellow players or seen the costumes or done any preparation at all. This made me understandably nervous, since I was to play the lead role. However I was assured that everything would be fine, the rest of the group knew what to do and all I had to do was improvise.

I proceeded to run around the theater looking for someone who could help me to quickly get up to speed on the play, help me learn my lines and stage movements. Alas, my efforts were for naught and the play proceeded on schedule. I stood around with no clue what to do, doing my best to improvise but basically making a fool of myself.

I was convinced the play was a failure, but I was later told that it was a success and the audience really liked it.

... and that was the dream. I woke up both perplexed and relieved, then realized it was a dream and laughed to myself as I immediately recognized the real-world application.

For the record, I do think the team is quite well prepared for this. While my own knowledge of the system is still very much at the beginner stage, the guys working for me have been on the system for a long time and are leaps ahead of me. So I may not know the script, but the others in the team do, and will be able to carry me along just fine.

Also for the record, I am not as ill-prepared as I was in the dream. I do in fact know my lines, and thankfully I am not playing the lead role, so my lines are limited and were fairly easy to learn. The folks in the lead roles (this upgrade is really more of an ensemble show) know their stuff and are well-prepared.

So, as the director said... "Action!"

[Quick update: the cutover was successful. Yay!]

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Ticking off to-do items

As mentioned last week, I'm back in the saddle when it comes to writing the Balfrith story. Of the nine items in my to-do list, I managed to check off two of them last weekend, and am working my way through another one today.

This blog post is just a short break in my Sunday morning writing session. I'll be getting back to work in a bit.

Several of the items in the list are loosely related, in that they have to do with strengthening the character of the story's antagonist. I had realized some time ago, and had it confirmed through some of my alpha-test readers, that the story didn't really have a strong "bad guy" character. There was conflict to be sure, but it tended to be background noise, the little conflicts that the protagonist and his friends simply dealt with from chapter to chapter. The true antagonist, such as it is, didn't make an appearance until almost the end of the story.

This needed to change.

Part of the problem, I realized, was that when I started writing the story I really didn't have a strong idea of who or what the antagonist really was. I had ideas for the kinds of challenges and adventures Balfrith might need to go on, but no clear vision of who or what his opposition might be. This is pretty obvious when you read the rough draft as it stands right now (or as it stood recently, anyway).

So, back to my list of to-do items, I have several notes indicating where I think I can bring out the antagonist as a character starting earlier in the story, and then throughout the story as things progress. The goal of course is to give Balfrith some real and active opposition, and bring out the central conflict of the story, earlier on. This should, in the end, increase the overall drama of the story and have a much better emotional impact on the reader.

Anyway that's the goal. Sorry I can't give more details, but I prefer to leave the actual antagonist a surprise for later readers to discover. There is a bit of mystery to the antagonist character, so I would rather not give it away just yet.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Back to Writing

Today I have officially returned to work on the Balfrith story. Hard to believe, it's been so long since I have written anything that I actually can't remember the last time I did so. Maybe February? Whatever the case, it's good to be back in the story. I have a to-do list of about nine items for the story, some of them relatively minor and some pretty big, so it's hard to say when I'll get them all done. At this point I'm just glad to be starting back on the list.

I've had a few early readers give me some great feedback on the story, with a bunch of suggestions for improvement, questions about some details, and other miscellaneous comments. Most of the suggested improvements were no surprise to me, as they were weaknesses I had already noticed myself. At the time I was unsure how to fix them, but between the suggestions and comments, and some brainstorming on my part, I developed this to-do list which should resolve the issues and questions that were raised.

At one point a few months ago, I had also been brainstorming the next Balfrith story. Those ideas are still waiting for me to come around to them, too, but for now I want to focus on finishing up my to-do list. My goal has always been to get it ready for publishing (in some format, still undecided), before jumping too deeply into the next story.

The story has changed quite a bit from my early samples. And of course the samples here on the blog only go through about half of the novel. So even if you went back and read all of them, somehow managing to do it in order based on the chapter and scene numbers that I gave, I think you would be surprised (hopefully in a good way!) at the differences between those rough drafts and what will be the final product.

Well, that's about all I've got to say today. Need to get back to writing Balfrith!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Getting Back to (the New) Normal

The Geekwif is with me once again, as of yesterday. I flew back to Wisconsin on Thursday to help with the final move and sign the closing documents for the sale of our house. The movers arrived Friday morning, and they worked the next five hours or so loading up the truck while we loaded up the Jeep with a few critical items and then set about cleaning the house.

We finally got on the road about 3:30 in the afternoon Friday, then drove all night to get to Denver by Saturday morning. Around 3:00 AM we pulled off the road into a gas station parking lot, parked the Jeep, and took a nap for a couple of hours. Back on the road by 5-ish, and we arrived here in Denver at about 10 AM Mountain time.

Razz, our black lab, handled the move really well. She loves car rides, as is typical, and we had her packed in the back seat with a few smaller boxes. She didn't have a lot of room to move around, but she had access to one window, and just enough space to lie down and sleep, which she did quite a bit of. Lucky her -- I was wishing I could sleep that easily in a moving vehicle with limited space.

Upon our arrival, we brought up a few things from the Jeep, but didn't unload all of it right away -- too tired. We took another nap in the apartment for a few hours, then last night we finished unloading the Jeep.

The 'wif will be here unpacking for the next few days, and preparing for the arrival of the movers later this week. I'll be on a business trip, so she will have the joy of telling the movers where to put everything. Once I get back on Friday, we'll most likely spend the weekend unpacking boxes and (re)arranging furniture and storage until we're satisfied with it.

So yeah, things are starting to get back to normal. Even though we're still in the middle of our move with more stuff to come, at least we are here, together, with our pets. That makes all the difference, for all of us.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Getting Settled In

Thought I'd drop by and give a quick update on life. The Geekwif and I drove out to Denver earlier this week, spent a couple of days looking at apartments, and finally chose one. We moved in to the new place two days ago, quickly followed by renting some basic furniture and purchasing household supplies and groceries so that we could actually, you know, live here.

Rental furniture is very expensive -- I had no idea. If we didn't already have a ton of furniture back home just waiting to be moved here, I would have just bought new stuff instead of renting. So, we rented the bare minimum of items that I/we will need for the next few weeks.

Also, we placed the order for cable TV and Internet, to be delivered a few days hence. Until then, we're using my iPhone as a Wi-Fi hotspot. Seems to work pretty well, although I'm keeping a close eye on our data usage. I may need to bump up my data allowance this month, if things continue as they are. But if the Internet access is delivered on time, we'll have that Wi-Fi to use instead of my mobile phone, and then my data usage should drop off considerably.

Speaking of Wi-Fi, I have been amazed at how many stores and restaurants in the area provide free Wi-Fi for their customers. I went to a local Dairy Queen to get a couple of treats, and was prompted to connect to their guest Wi-Fi! Same thing happened at Target. And a couple of other places. I feel like a man who's spent the last seven years wandering the desert in search of water, only to stumble upon an expansive oasis that I had no idea existed. Welcome (back) to modern suburban living, I guess.

Moving on...

I start my job next week -- really looking forward to that.

Geekwif will also return home next week to finish packing, then a couple weeks after that I will fly back just in time to work together with her and the professional movers to get everything moved.

Once we have all of our own furniture in place, we'll return the rented items. It will be really nice to have all my stuff here, although I suspect we will struggle to find a place for everything. But that's not a bad problem to have, all things considered.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

When Everything Finally Starts Coming Together

Finally, I can begin talking about the crazy turns life has taken the past few months. I'm going to keep it short and relatively light on details, as this is a public blog and I'm not really in the habit of airing all my laundry for others to see.

Since early January, I have:
  1. Lost a fantastic job (due to business re-org, not my performance) that I will miss, especially the people!
  2. The Geekwif and I decided to relocate to a city near the Rocky Mountains, which has been a dream of ours for almost twenty years.
  3. Found a recruiter to help with the job search and make sure my resume stood out above the competition.
  4. Gone through multiple interviews and landed a new job.
  5. Got the house on the market and done several showings with positive feedback.
Now we just need to find an apartment and get me moved in, start my new job, and sell the house! Also, I want to learn how to snowboard.

Here's to new adventures!

Blog posting will remain light for the next few weeks as we go through the remaining steps in our relocation. Hopefully after we get settled in, I will be able to start writing again and life may return to some semblance of normalcy... albeit with mountains!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

So Close...

... and yet so far. Still dealing with "life stuff", and still can't talk about it yet. Maybe in a few more weeks -- stay tuned. I can say that it is mostly positive rather than negative.

In other news, Spock has gone where all men eventually go. Here's to Leonard Nimoy, for taking a coldly logical, inhuman character, and making him human.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Quick Update on Life

Just a brief update to say that life isn't quite as sideways as it was three weeks ago, but it has not fully righted itself yet either. Blogging will remain quiet for the next few weeks at least, although if I get a chance, I will post an update with some real information.

Status on the book is likewise unchanged, making progress slowly in the background.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Sometimes, Life Just Goes Sideways

Nothing I can share at the moment, but wanted to leave this little note to say that the blog isn't dead and neither am I. However I may not be posting much for the next few weeks. Not that I post a lot anyway, but this amount of silence is unusual even for me.

Hopefully I can get through the challenges of the next few weeks, and then I may even be able to share a bit of what's going on.

Progress on the book continues, slowly. Still working with my new friends and writing colleagues at Scribophile to improve the story, although that is going slowly too. But it's OK, since I have other priorities to deal with at the moment.

More to share (hopefully) later.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Sorry For the Delay

It's been an interesting couple of weeks, which have kept me busy enough that I simply forgot to post. The day after we got our well repaired, one of our beloved pets got really sick. I had to put him down shortly thereafter, which ended the year on such a negative note I just wanted to curl up and ignore life for a while.

But then a week later we had a fun party with friends, which started 2015 on a much brighter note. So that helped, although it also kept me from posting as we had a busy weekend.

Meanwhile, I also joined an online writers' group called Scribophile, in order to keep working on my book and improve it so that it's good enough to publish. The book I'm referring to is the Balfrith story, which has changed enough in the past six months that you might not recognize it from the bits and pieces that I've posted here on the blog. But anyway, I've been working with other writers on Scrib to critique it, and have already received some really good feedback, both positive and negative. I decided that I want to stay focused on this story until I can sell it, before I start writing the next one.

Not much else to say otherwise. As work on the story progresses, I will post some updates. My goal is to have the story sale-worthy before the end of 2015. I'm not sure if that is reasonable or not... time will tell.