Monday, May 21, 2018

Super busy last few days.

Hi there,

It's been really busy at my place for the last few days. Things are just beginning to settle down some. As such, I should be able to get some real work going on posts here. I am making good progress on edits to book four. It is more of a novella, but I don't think that is going to be much of a problem because book five onward are monster length. Not because I'm rambling but because there's so much plot.

I'm beginning to find my way out of the creative hole I wound up in on my serial stories and on book seven. If all goes according to my hopes, I will have major progress done on those by the end of June. Just in time for the summer break to start for the kids. In the meantime, I'm steadily working on getting things prepped for said break and more structured schedules for the kids. This should mean better time writing, right?

The boys are coming up with some awesome stories that I'm encouraging them to write and illustrate. I'd love to share their work but they don't want to right now. And that's ok. Budding artists need time to grow and develop their style on their own. I will confess, though, my eldest is doing some amazing work on drawing very detailed diagrams for inventions he'd like to make. And my youngest has some pretty wicked ideas for things that should happen, like inventing a tornado that cleans everything up and you can turn it on and off with a switch and control it with a remote control. The two of them are working on how that would work.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The Iron Lily: Part 15 - Halthor the Haunted.

Halthor woke with a grunt when the door to the traveler's rest opened. The sun wasn't very high above the horizon. His sleep was by some small mercy free of nightmares, but it was not restful. Some new reflex drove Halthor to reach for the small axe at his hip when a figure entered the building. Ewen nodded at Halthor as he muscled in a pile of wood with his brother/cousin behind him, holding a slightly smaller pile of wood under an arm.

As they replenished the stock pile of wood, Halthor sat up. He looked about himself and found that his goods had been brought in. "The pony showed up when the night singer's fell silent. Ewen has him on the leeward side of the traveler's rest with some hay to crop. No sign of the dog yet," the second man said as he turned to shove some wood into the fire. The battered looking pot hanging over it swung slightly after a stick struck the base of it. Halthor could smell something in it. Probably oats and nothing more, he thought to himself as he stood up to stretch. "I threw some of the dried fish uncle sent with you in there just before we stepped out. I'm not much fond of mudfish but beggars and all that. I don't have any of the witchweed to make it taste any better. But it is better than plain gruel. Ewen said that it was important that you had more in your belly than oat porridge. Something about you going south to see ..." Ewen looked up at the mention of his name. He simply looked at his brother in amazement.

His brother waved a hand dismissively in the direction he was mentioning, completely unaware that the ferryman was looking at him."You said my name," Ewen stated in quiet astonishment.

"Yeh, what of it?" his brother answered gruffly, stirring the pot briskly. The sudden tension in the room made Halthor feel like dealing with the night singers would have been easier. As he made his way outside to relieve his aching bladder, he could hear Davian say, "I'm not deaf, you know. I heard you this morning." The door swung shut and Halthor made his way to a discreet spot at the side of the building to piss. He wasn't sure if his host and guide were going to be arguing or not when he walked back in.

Halthor wasn't comfortable with the idea of listening to what could be a violent argument when he needed someone to point out the road he had to take. In his moment of discomfort, he heard a noise behind him. Halthor looked over to see the red eared dog that had become his companion before passing through Hyle trotting over through the snow. The dog sniffed at Halthor's foot and then looked up at him expectantly. "What?" Halthor muttered at the dog. The dog lifted its leg and pissed on the side of the building. "Really? That's what you're about? Cold doesn't bother you, your pecker's got a coat," he scoffed as he arranged his clothes to deal with his own need.

The wind mercifully died down while Halthor was exposed. The dog sniffed at where Halthor urinated as Halthor tied the drawstring of his trewes tight. He resettled his tunic, jerkin, and coat over himself. Glad that he was wearing his split mittens, Halthor walked back around the side of the building. As he passed by the pony, he patted it on its side. The creature butted its head against his shoulder. Halthor paused and looked over. The pony shook its head and butted its head against his shoulder again. Halthor reached up and scratched the pony between its ears.

He thought about Alaric, his father. He didn't think that the master builder expected this to turn into such a dangerous journey. Halthor ran a hand through his hair, knocking back his hood. As the wind caught stray locks and blew them into his eyes, his hand rested on the pony's head. "What would he do with this?" Halthor said quietly. "Why didn't he tell me he was my father? Why didn't he tell me?" Halthor looked at the hammer hanging from its loop on his left hip. "Maybe he did and I just didn't understand," he sighed, "I'm a fool. I'm a cursed fool at that."

He thought he could almost hear Alaric scoff. "You're the one who sent me on this, old man," he muttered to himself, "Not right that you laugh at me for the trouble I'm in." The wind moved through the trees and Halthor seemed to hear a voice calling his name from the shadows. He turned and looked over. In the deepest shadows, it seemed there stood a man. Halthor squinted against the darkness. The figure looked familiar.

The longer he looked, the more the figure looked like Alaric. A sense of dread pooled in Halthor's guts. "You're not him," Halthor said. The figure waved at him with a sense of purpose, trying to motion him over. Halthor's hand dropped from the pony's head. As he reached down and touched the hammer, the figure's resembalence to Alaric diminished. The face was a mask of wrath as the beckoning gesture became one of challenge.

"Go back to the darkness," Halthor said and spat in the direction of the figure, "Tell your masters I'm not stupid." The figure seemed to grow larger as clouds scudded across the sky. Halthor took the hammer in hand and pointed it at the figure. "If you want a taste of iron, I'll gladly give it to you," he said. The eerie shadow figure split and vanished as a hard wind shook the stand of trees that gave it shape.

"I've got his hammer," he muttered as he slipped the hammer back into its loop, "And that is enough, I suppose." He stooped and walked into the traveler's rest. He half expected the room to be filled with gore after answering the shadow creature's challenge. It was how his luck seemed to have been running. When his eyesight adjusted after he shut the door, he saw that the brothers were sitting by the wood pile discussing something as they gestured at the ground with spoons as they ate from bowls. Ewen looked over and motioned Halthor over.

"Eat, we think we figured out the best way for you to get to Weck-in-Wood. You need to follow the trees, not the road. Stay on the field side of the trees. Come nightfall, you'll meet up with the road at the traveler's rest just north of Weck-in-Wood. After that, press hard through Weck Forest. The next traveler's rest is in the curve of the ox bow where the river loops into the forest. It's a harder passage but they won't look for you to go directly there. The rats of Wynnwode expect everyone to travel the road they'd tax us on passing."

Monday, May 14, 2018

Book Review: The Cloud of Unknowing

Title: The Cloud of Unknowing
Author: Anonymous, 13th Cent.
Translator: [I failed to note this.]
Publisher: [I failed to note this.]
Date: [I failed to note this.]

I've started to read the Cloud of Unknowing. The historical context of this text has made for facinating reading, but a part of me wants to skip a head to the real text. I'm ging to finish reading this context setting preface, though. A lesson in patience is necessary if I am finding this fustrating. This preface is that lesson.

Grace is hidden in us all. Few learn to (or attempt to) uncover it from the mound of daily cares and falsehoods that creat a placid seeming life.

Carelessness as a part of sin? An interesting concept that isn't voiced much.

[Edited to add: I read this and the other texts on Christian theology as I was exploring Christianity and seriously considering conversion to that faith.]

Originally published: 8/23/06

Note: I have a copy of this book on hand. I will revisit it and actually write a useful review on this. This is one of a few book reviews that are going to be cross posted to another blog of mine.

Recommendations: Hidden Citizens.

If you are like me, you write with some sort of theme music in the background playing to help bring the scene you're writing more to reality. I listen to a really wide range of music. There is an artist that I haven't been able to get enough of. They're called Hidden Citizens. They do theatrical style re-envisioning of popular music. It ranges from Beethoven's Fifth Symphony to Flock of Seagulls I Ran. Their take on the Moonlight Sonata is eerie and I love it. I highly recommend their music.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Locales: The Great Dragon Mountains.

Photo from
Just as here on Earth, in the world of Evandar there are continental mountain ranges. The continent that the kingdom of Evandar is located is divided into thirds. One third is desert away to the west of Evandar. One third is relatively temperate which is where Evandar, Ranyth and several other countries are located. The final third is off to the east of Ranyth that is grasslands.

A massive chain of mountains divides the temperate zone in half and then spreads along the lower edge of the polar region (which is progressively more tundra like as you move away from the mountains) from the small grassland plain on the western edge of Evandar to the distant ocean at the far eastern end of the grasslands east of Ranyth. A small spur of mountains extends into mid-western Evandar. Another, somewhat larger spur of mountains extends down along the far eastern edge of the grasslands. The extensive chain of mountain ranges is known as the Great Dragon.

The various ranges that make it up have names pertaining to parts of a dragon except for the small spur that extends into the mid-western region of Evandar. The Dragon's Teeth is the portion of the northern range that moves from northern Tarsus into northern Ranyth. The Dragon's Spine extends from the southern edge of the Dragon's Teeth to the south until it reaches the sea. The Dragon's tail is a very long range that is actually made of several smaller mountain ranges (much like the Appalachian mountains here in the USA).

It moves from the north-eastern edge of the northern most duchy of Ranyth east across the border of the great grasslands. The spur that extends down along the far eastern edge of the grasslands where the continent meets the ocean is unnamed by the peoples of the Evandar-Ranyth region. The ocean is considered mythical by many. That, however, is something for another day.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Flora et Fauna: Source material.

At the right you see me holding a very small sample of the library I have put together regarding plants and one of my notebooks where I record things I have learned from other sources. It may seem a little odd to talk about research where I have been talking mostly about different plants and animals.

I wanted to give you some insight into my working process in today's post. Much of what I write in my flora et fauna posts is in a style that is relatively close to how one would find such things described in actual texts. I am attempting to create a body of work that can provide additional realism for the world I have created. I am also attempting to synthesize a modern simulacrum of the medieval texts focused upon fictional plants.

This project had its seeds planted early when I was a child and my late paternal grandmother was explaining plants to me. She had an earlier edition of Margaret A. Grieves A Modern Herbal (I'm holding volume one in this picture) and I was fascinated by how detailed the plant descriptions were. The line drawings that were sprinkled through out the pages were jaw droppingly stunning in their level of detail. It reminded me of the botanical and naturalist sketches and paintings from the 1800s by people like John James Audubon.

As I started to dream of my little world, I found myself looking at details in close attention. I was curious how a tree would grow in a bog so I studied bogs and trees for a time. I was curious how dragons would reproduce, so I studied dinosaurs, birds, and monotremes. I would think of an evolutionary niche and try to figure out what lived in it. In many ways, I was thinking about the world's story even as I was thinking about how imaginary plants like fireweed were used. There's a reason why my world building notes occupies multiple volumes.

Sadly, they're all disorganized. This is part of the reason why I haven't a new plant or animal for you today. I am still in the process of organizing them. But, my source material for inspiration is always at hand because it comes from the world around me. And our world is just as wonderfully magical as the world of Evandar. Indeed, an Evandari person would be awed by our world. Not just because of our technological prowess but because of the amazing diversity of the biology of our planet.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Craft of Writing: Have a back up plan

As recent events may have shown, it is vital to keep a backup of your work. Now, the backup needs to be in a format that still works with your machine. While the floppy is iconic (hence my choice of whipping an old one out from storage) I don't think that there is a single piece of tech on the market right now that uses them.

Thumb drives are pretty awesome. I have a few. I have backups of my backups. This is how I discovered I hadn't lost half of book four, it really was novella length to begin with. (It was a NaNoWriMo project that clocked in at exactly 50K words.) The most important part of having backups is to make sure they are current. If your last backup of your novel or other digital project was thirty versions ago, you are going to lose a lot of work if your system decides to take a dirt nap.

This is where planning to archive work is a good thing. Once a month, or more frequently depending on just what exactly I am working on is, I make backups of my current projects. I also check to make sure that the archives of previous projects are still good both on the computer and on the storage device. Having lost a few novels due to things like data being corrupted on the disk, I am extra careful about making sure that I am not risking this again.

I strongly encourage you to do something similar. I don't want you to go through the anxiety, stress, and heartache of losing major work all because you forgot to back it up.