introducing a group, part ii

After my last post, about how to introduce several characters, and the distinctions between character and setting, I thought that I’d go visit Gav Thorp’s blog ‘Mechanical Hamster‘ and ask him if he would be willing to say a few words on the subject. I really love Gav’s advice– he writes some really excellent articles on writing tips and craft. Anyone interested in advanced creative writing should stop by and browse through the archives.

Much to my delight, Gav obliged me and wrote a long, detailed post on how to handle secondary characters that really addressed some of the problems I was having. You can find it here, and I think it’s well worth a read.

Thanks, Gav!

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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. πŸ˜€

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. β€œThat 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.

… and i return!

I got back from my holiday last night, after a long car ride. I think I’m going to break my self-imposed rule to leave out personal information on this blog for a (very) brief moment.

The score:

  • 7 days on the shore of the Pacific Ocean.
  • 17 pieces of handmade chocolates bought.
  • 13 pieces of aforementioned chocolates consumed.
  • 7 art galleries visited. I love sculpture.
  • 4 balls of wool yarn and a bamboo crochet needle purchased.
  • 2 crochet lessons during the daily church services.
  • 1 winter scarf created, striped in blues and orange.
  • 1 trip to Powell’s Books.
  • 11 books purchased. I’m an addict.
  • 1 helicopter ride.
  • 2 sunburns.
  • 1 giant sand castle, built with my parents.
  • 1 bottle of raspberry wine purchased, one third consumed (slow drinker).
  • 3 games of putt-putt golf. I was even worse than my mother.
  • 1 and 1/3 great novels read (still working on the second).
  • 8,000 words written on Blue Crystal.
  • 1 and 1/2 chapters completed. Three chapters until the end of this rewrite.
  • 75% of this rewrite finished.

Aside from the (fairly obvious) point that I had a fantastic time and was sorry to leave, these last few items on the list bring a very good point to my attention.

People who keep up with my book’s progress know that I aim for about 4,000 words a week. That’s a little over five hundred words a day. I spent lots of time last week relaxing, reading, shopping, playing on the beach, learning new things. And though I didn’t set any writing goals for myself, my progress on my novel doubled even without a disciplined schedule.

I have a hard time seeing how much energy my job takes away from me. Sometimes I consider taking what savings I have and writing full-time instead. I’m lucky; my mother is an artist, an oil painter enamored of landscapes and still life. Though she doesn’t care for my genre, she understands what I’m doing, and my parents would support me if I did turn my attention to my novel full-time. My dad’s been searching for a job in his field, and may have found a good one by a lake in a smaller town just out of state, though it’s too soon to say (negotiations being what they are). I’d love to be able to write somewhere like that.

I have a good job. I still enjoy it, after a year and a half staying here. Even so… lately something about its feel has changed subtly, like toes brushing against the edge of shoes that used to fit, like Italian bread with a woody crust.

This should be interesting, any way it goes.

villain: sorche du remerdii: introduction

Sorche du Remerdii
β€œCommon sense really isn’t that common.”

Sorche du Remerdii

(Ideally read to the tune of Don’t Fear the Reaper, by Blue Oyster Cult.)

Sorche is my favorite villain in this story– I’ve touched on him before in my Kione excerpt, and have been working on him in the background since June began and I figured out what a smart-ass he was.

“Apologies, du Jadis.” One of the men in black bowed slightly. Rylan decided (for now) that he was the leader, and noted his unusually dark skin showing between his cap and scarf. “This is a rescue, despite appearances. We’d appreciate it if you would move quickly. We’re not to hurt anyone.”

Another man appeared with bandages while a third pulled out Rylan’s coat that he’d left in the other room, along with his hat, muffler, gloves, but not his swords. Rylan allowed them access to his wounded arm, and they bandaged it (sloppily– Rylan thought he could have done better, even with one hand). “Who do you serve?” Rylan asked.

“Now?” The leader glanced back to the men who were keeping the doors. No one had intruded on them yet. “Very well. On behalf of my lord, Rylan du Jadis, I commend you for your bravery, congratulate you for your victory, and condemn you for your idiocy.” He offered Rylan an exaggerated bow, and pulled back his left sleeve to show a golden bracer, celestite set into the ring on his middle finger instead of a sigil. “You can call me Sorche du Remerdii.”

Sorche is the adopted son of Remerdii, a landed gentleman who has managed to achieve great wealth, and foster brother to Kione Remerdii. Sorche was taken as a small child and given the name of the Remerdii’s dead son and brother. Sorche has always been considered a gentleman as long as he could remember, given good rooms and private tutors, encouraged to compete with his brother Kione. He’s better than Kione at the Mordache Art, fighting and other physical activities, but falls short at tact and diplomacy. Sorche just can’t help but take jabs when he sees the opportunity.

I’ve put another Sorche excerpt, longer this time, under the cut.
Continue reading

good villains don’t pull punches

Easy to say. Much, much harder to pull off in writing. Why? Because realistically, there’s only so much that can be done to a character before they break. The more realistic the story, the more the reader identifies with the protagonist. The more the reader identifies with the protagonist, the more the events in the story don’t just happen to the characters– they happen to the reader, too.

I’ve toted my love of George Martin’s ‘Song of Ice and Fire’ series before. Why? Because a very well developed character, a beast of a fighter that had been developed painstakingly for three (long) books can win a fight, take an injury in the process, and die of tetanus. There are so many characters in his books that he can realistically kill a huge portion of his cast like that. It heightens your sense of danger for the favorite characters, it takes away the safety net, and the knowledge that some of these characters are not going to survive the next few hundred pages makes the material gripping. Good villains don’t pull punches.

The problem with imitating this style, however, is that stories that aren’t a series of 200k novels have a much smaller cast. You can hurt them, you can kill them, but know that whatever pain and torment they go through… it’s not just going to magically go away. These characters are going to have to last you till the end of the story. And a good villain, a good danger, is going to hurt what it comes across.

I’m about sixty percent of the way through my book. My heroine has already broken her arm twice, and during plotting for future chapters I’ve very nearly decided that I’m going to shatter her knee and kill a side-character that I’m rather fond of. There is no healing magic. She’ll never run again, or walk without her staff. Why? Because there’s a villain with the advantage who is clever enough to find her. Take away his advantage, let her win the struggle immediately, and he’s not much of a villain. On the other hand, give my antagonist what he seeks (answers for her possession of a dead friend’s mask) and he will kill her. Good villains don’t pull punches. There is no ‘before I kill you’ monologue. No last requests. No ‘by the power of sheer will’ victories. No drastic change in skill when it’s convenient for him to lose a fight.

Why do people love a good villain? Because that struggle between the characters, the wavering balance of power, the trade of victories and defeats is what makes the adventure. Without tension, conflict, that sense of danger and concern for losing something precious… there is no story.