vastii cityscape

So, I’m really not good at art, portraits aside (and those I’m demi-mediocre at, but I digress). That said, I’ve wanted to draw a cityscape of my Blue Crystal setting, Vastii, for some time. This one’s not great, but it may be just good enough to try a 3d version later.

VastiiSketch

Edit – A few hours later…

Vastii City

revision update: 75%

I’m slightly feverish, and must go to bed, but after an almost NaNo-worthy day, I’m drawing to the last two major scenes of chapter ten. Page-count wise, I’ve passed the three-quarters mark.

Also, I keep trying to write ‘Tyobe’ when I mean ‘Maeche’. I know the two characters are brothers, and they sort of resemble each other (a little) but why can’t I keep them straight?

new query letter!

I’m just about to finish up chapter seven– six more to go, but I’ve been having trouble motivating myself to finish the last thousand words before I get to the fun, violent part of the book.

So instead, I took a break to write a new query letter (minus the boring title-genre parts). I think they’re getting better; feel free to tell me if I’m completely deluded. 😀

Cheers!


In Marla, wars are fought with assassins, not armies.

The duke of Marla’s northern providence had been in the king’s disfavor since the duke married the king’s sister. The king’s opinion worsened when the duchess died suddenly and without explanation.

Duchess-to-be Wyrren Jadis is the king’s niece, but very much her father’s daughter: honorable, unsubtle, and with a firm sense of duty. Twelve years after her mother’s death, the king uses a mounting revolt on Jadis lands as an excuse to have his niece kidnapped and brought to his underground city of Vastii, which struggles to recover from plague, famine, and violent objections to their unfair monarch. Armed with a formal education, a specialty in a non-combative magic, three talented maids, and a high-ranking slave, Wyrren isn’t quite prepared to be her father’s assassin. But the king means to use Wyrren to accuse the duke of murder regardless of guilt, and he isn’t above making examples of her maids, or her slave, the man she secretly loves.

In the deepest tunnels of Vastii, far from the palace gentry, red crosses are drawn in chalk where effects of the plague have been seen. Wyrren’s slave is also a doctor, accustomed to slums, and has evidence to support a friend’s theory that this plague might have been started intentionally months before their arrival, and not by the king.

an excerpt

I’ve been having trouble with a fight scene, so I went back to try it again, focusing more on the set up this time. Better, I think.

The chamber that Rylan stepped into was large, over twice as long as it was wide, and their path was a set of gallery railings that ran along the walls. Halfway through the room a walkway spanned the width and divided the room in two, and two jeweled chandeliers hung down on either side, ropes of glittering diamonds and sapphires dangling almost carelessly. The lights were pinpricks of gold from the candles that spanned along the rail, just enough to see the stairs across the room. “That one?” he whispered.

Dacha panted louder than he spoke, slightly bent and shrugging her shoulders in time with her breathing. She nodded. Rylan took the lead, and chose to walk around the wall and avoid the walkway. Saffira’s lantern behind him threw a giant’s shadow on the far wall. Dacha may have been out of breath, but adrenaline gave Rylan the impression that his heard had moved behind his ears. He moved at a walk for Dacha’s sake, both swords free of their sheaths and his eyes scanning to and fro. There were four doors on the upper level aside from their intended staircase, one at each corner. Four silent, black mouths.

Two footsteps beyond the first corner, Rylan heard an extra set of feet on the tile floor. “Saffira!”

The wild woman spun between her companions and the open doorway, and she blocked high. The black axe crashed onto the large knife and forced Saffira to her knees. Two other guards moved past him with short swords in hand, and Rylan heard the sound of crossbows loading across the room.

villian: kione remerdii: introduction

Kione Remerdii, lord of blue crystal

“Those that protested, ‘I had no choice,’ obviously lacked an imagination.”

Kione Remerdii

Kione’s family are not noble; the Remerdiis are what is known as ‘Landed Gentleman’, which means that they get a surname, but are barred from officially naming their territories or taking on slaves bound in gold. For services to the king, Kione was promoted to the rank of pseudo-nobility, given the title of ‘Lord’… but his home and lands were not given an official name. Instead, after a bit of social fumbling he was nicknamed ‘Lord Kione Remerdii, of blue crystal’ after his new crest, a piece of celestite shining in the dark. This combined the gentleman and lordly titles, and aside from some prestige bestowed very little special privilege. Given the service he was performed in exchange, some might even think that he was robbed. Kione accepted graciously instead.

The hierarchy, to be clear: Royalty > High Nobility > Nobility > Landed Gentleman > Gentleman > common men.


When Kione was eight years old, he was put in charge of his family’s dogs, to teach him to rule. Dogs, his father theorized, were the perfect way to raise his son: they would flock for food and favors, and were easily trained, easily led astray. This was much how the senior Remerdii saw his people, which he organized into strict routines and rigid groups, all heavily moderated. Kione adopted the same practices, training the animals, then using them for mundane labor.

Two years later, Kione was with his animals when a much younger boy– probably five or so, and noble-born on top of it– thought it would be fun to run among them and hit them with a heavy stick, normally used for chastising the dogs. Kione caught and held him, wrenching his stick away from him and demanded that the child desist and leave. The boy swore and refused, reaching back to take back his weapon as he struggled. Then the boy’s father came into view.

Immediately the child threw himself on the ground and began sobbing. The father shouted and scooped him up, asking his son what had happened and giving Kione a very unpleasant expression as the boy pointed a finger at the stick, but seemed too wrought to make out the words. Kione’s explanation seemed to be disregarded.

When Kione’s own father called on him later for an answer, Kione again tried to explain that he had not been in the wrong. His father cut him off, affirmed that he already knew what had really happened. Then he went on to explain that it was unimportant. Truth was, ultimately, less important than appearance. He was to find other ways, other options, but always must appear blameless, regardless of his intentions, the presence or lack of guilt. Then Kione was punished as if he had attacked the little noble, to the satisfaction of their guest.

Kione learned his lesson, and did not make that mistake again.

my (new and improved) query letter

Dear Mr. Example,

In a sunless ice-world where cities are built underground, Vastii is a corrupt, dirty metropolis ripe with gangs, mercenaries, rebellion, cannibalism, and scheming politicians. To suppress an uprising in the west, the king takes his own niece, Lady Wyrren Jadis, as a political hostage. Officially, her presence will ensure her father’s loyalty to a king that he never cared for. The king never mentioned that he intends to use Wyrren’s unwilling confession to convict her father for the murder of his late wife Arielii, the king’s beloved sister.

Amid evidence of loose assassins and the judging eyes of a hostile court, forced into a strange city with only a few companions, the king’s niece is seen as an opportunity for riches and power, an easy way to the king’s ear or a weapon against the monarchy. When the king’s secret police begins to track and kill men found in connection to an illegal press that Wyrren contributes to, her companions are left to scramble across the plague-ridden city to keep the police at bay while the lady seeks someone, anyone, in the courts who can protect her from her increasingly demanding uncle. Amid deal making and breaking, she finds the unassuming, charming, and ambitious Remerdii, a newly appointed lord and favorite of the king. Remerdii provides a much-needed crutch, but only in exchange for a price that increases the more she comes to need him. When an opportunity for power presents itself, Remerdii betrays the king and Wyrren both just as Wyrren finds the perfect time and place to kill her uncle: her real reason for coming to the city.

Blue Crystal is a completed 95,000 word novel written for an adult audience who enjoy action, intrigue, and low-fantasy. I’ve included the first three pages of my manuscript. Thank you!

Sincerely,

pondering pov

So! Now that the cover art is mostly out of the way (and I’m bouncing in anticipation of the coming sketches) I’ve turned my attention back to the book, the chapter, and the partial rewrite that I want to finish.

And I’ve run into another problem, and another answer that’s going to force me to rework much more than I’d anticipated: Rylan is not that effective of a POV character for what I want to do next. My heroine would be much better. She’s the one making the decisions, and later she’s the one who’s going to be in danger, and there are things she will say without Rylan being present.

I take a lot of care with POV. So far, it’s all been a third-person fixed and limited perspective, meaning the camera is on Rylan, and always on Rylan and has been for the last nearly 40k words. I prefer it that way; I like to keep things as simple as possible to avoid shifting needlessly. Except now? It’s not so needless.

Changing over to another character this late in the book, even using chapter breaks, is a jarring practice. I hate rules, but I’ll agree with this one: don’t switch cameras to a secondary character for one chapter halfway through the book, then never again.

With that in mind I’m changing chapter two (which I was never satisfied with) to Wyrren’s position. I’m probably also going to add another chapter somewhere between four and seven with her as the point of view character. And there’s a very important scene I’ll do the same. That puts her as the narrator for about 25% of the book.

It also changes the feel of the book, the lighting and mood, if you will. POV is important. It colors the pages with your character. In this case it’s steel and stone, oil lamps in the cold, blood and sweat, then to golden light, marble arches, velvet gowns and implication, implication everywhere, murmuring and gossiping, kind words one minute than slander the next; a fairy-tale ball of junior high girls who will never grow up.

It’s also going to be harder, longer, and double my work, especially handling the exposition and the secondary characters. I’ll do it, of course. I’ll do anything to make my book better. Even so, it’s hard, and I don’t want to. Consider the dilemma ranted and struggled with.

plot, the contortionist

My changes to plot has fixed a hundred problems that I didn’t account for when I wrote the 0-draft in NaNoWriMo. Subplots have popped up, interweave with the main storyline, the characters, even unintentionally, are changing as the story progresses. Rylan finally believes he knows what to do and is starting to act like the pseudo-noble that he is.

The problem is that in my first write (and this was one of the problems with that draft that I hadn’t specifically identified) my characters’ strength and connections had remained fairly static throughout the story. Now that I’m paying more attention to the villains, I’ve realized that if they’re going to survive, they need allies and connections.

Allies and connections means that the catalyst that brings them down is no longer going to work. Not even remotely. My characters would have to be blitheringly stupid to even get close. Which means that one of my key events is completely wrong.

Now, I could find ways to explain it off. Ick, no. I can’t even salvage part of the original plan and make it consistent and believable. I am not going to bend and twist my plot to give it a preordained mediocre pre-climax. Plot can be a contortionist in some cases, but the moment it had a foot sticking out of its stomach, something’s wrong.

My villain’s going to have to do something pretty amazing to bring them down now. I’m going to keep on writing, and see how it happens, because I’m off my outline.

finishing chapter one

The second rewrite of my first chapter has just been completed. It’s much stronger, the setting is firmly in place, it’s terribly long (7,500 words), it sparks with tension, and it just may be the best thing that I’ve ever written. I am thrilled, exhausted, and slightly terrified, because I’ve printed out copies for my four test readers. Once they finish, it goes to my writing critique group. I am now ready to continue with the first rewrite, with has languished for the last few days while I’ve slogged on this piece. Expect my word count meter to start climbing again soon.

I will say this much. Wyrren Jadis is an amazing character. I’m terrified that I’m going to handle her badly. She’s frustrating to direct, stubborn, impossible to express. But when I can use her correctly, she outshines them all.

I love this book.

research: wyrren jadis

I have a very important character with a very unusual trait. Wyrren, the most prominent character in the book, can’t move her face. And I want to explain this in a clear, yet subtle way without confusing people, cutting down the impact she makes, or making her seem apathetic– she’s certainly very important to Rylan, my protagonist. Since this isn’t common even in my fantasy world, most of the characters assume that she’s mentally retarded. … I’ve always had problems trying to convey Wyrren. She’s a very smart, very complicated character that I admire for a variety of reasons, and she’s been part of my writing cast for the last eight years.

I’m using Mobius Syndrome for technical descriptions of what’s wrong with her: you can read more of it here for the wikipedia article, or here.