Monday, October 19, 2015

Break in Posting.

Hi everyone,

I didn't want to do this, but I am going to have to take a break from posting. There is a lot of family stuff going on (like dentist appointments) that will be keeping me from my regular post schedule for the remainder of the week. I plan to be back with new material next Sunday.

In the meantime, I hope everyone has a wonderful week.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Craft of Writing: Pushing through the block.

At some point in time, every writer encounters the dreaded writer's block. Some will give up at this point and wait for the inspiration to return. This can result in a delay that lasts anything from a few days to a few years, in severe cases. Not every writer, however, will run up the white flag when they hit this challenge.

Writing based off of inspiration is romanticized a lot in the media. They present the image of a passionate author penning their magnum opus in a fevered frenzy of inspiration. And then there is the tragic figure of the author who is languishing in dismay because their muse has abandoned them (which is a fancy way to describe writer's block). For some reason, this dichotomy has really captured the imagination of the world. It leaves aspiring authors with the impression that writing is an all or nothing affair.

Writer's block, however, is not a problem that will kill your beloved project. It is the lack of discipline to continue writing even when you're not feeling passionate about it that will destroy your dreams. The hardest part of writing is not editing or revisions. (Though they are truly rough at times, I will admit.) The hardest part, in my opinion, is sitting in the chair and writing when you have no heart invested in the story.

This kind of grueling affair is not for the faint of heart. Writing when there is no romance felt for the project is exhausting and emotionally draining. Some of us find ourselves heavily doubting our adequacy when we are in that stage of work. This is where giving yourself permission to write badly is important. It doesn't matter how good what you write is. All that matters is that you write.

Forcing yourself to write is really hard to do. In my case, it takes a lot of coffee and a big playlist of music to keep me focused. Some one else has different tricks to keep themselves focused on their work. But maintaining focus and discipline is what get you through. A 500 word essay can be just as hard to write as a 50k manuscript when you're not feeling any passion towards it.

Making yourself sit in the chair and do your work, however, is what gets you to your goal. It takes dogged determination and effort to push through writer's block. It takes being full of 'piss and vinegar' (as my Grandfather called it) to ignore the nice little story that the media sells us that we should waste away waiting for our inspiration to come back. Some people talk about having a muse. They describe writer's block as the muse abandoning them. The ones who push through the writer's block are the ones who grab that muse and chain them to the desk. The muse may not talk to you, but you force them to stay present.

Sure, it is not as fun as when the muse talks to you. But, sometimes, forcing your muse to stay with you results in the muse telling you stuff that is even better than what comes in the fever of inspiration. Roll up your shirt sleeves, grab your cup of coffee, your favorite writing tool, and get to it, folks. That story is waiting for you to push on through.

Food of Evandar: Journey Bread

The journey bread that is carried by travelers is based upon hardtack. Some journey bread had spices mixed into it prior to baking. It was generally reserved for the upper class. The hardtack that was carried for nobles was impressed with the crest of their house. The recipe given on The American Table is an excellent example of how hardtack is made. Just as in the history of our world, journey bread has been in use since antiquity.

Where hardtack is generally a pale cream color with a bit of browning from baking, journey bread is the color of cornbread. In place of sugar that is used in many recipes, honey is added. In the case of the recipe from The American Table, I would add a few tablespoons of liquid honey and reduce the amount of water added so that the dough was still the proper texture. The spices added varied from region to region.

Perhaps the most common is fireweed. The less potent spices imported from other regions are much like those of our world. Thus, cinnamon is known by the wealthy of Evandar, for example. While one may not want to put the combination of powdered chili pepper and cinnamon into their journey bread, cinnamon by itself would work well. Ginger is also used. Ginger is a popular spice in Evandar among the nobles and the wealthy. Folklore declares it to be an aphrodisiac, which is part of the reason why it is so popular. To have your journey bread take on the color of Evandari journey bread, you could replace a quantity of flour with cornmeal. Or you could add a little bit of food dye.

Journey bread is eaten like hardtack. It is generally not very flavorful and a fairly unpleasant meal. A heavy cracker-like bread, journey bread is usually used as a trencher to eat other foods on top of. This softens the journey bread and makes it more palatable.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Delayed Post.

I'm sorry folks. I've got the beginnings of a migraine going on. I've been struggling all day to get the brain power to post something here. It's not working out so well. I'll be posting the recommendations stuff this weekend. (Provided the migraine doesn't last two days like the last one did.)

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Flora et Fauna: Pictures - Beggar's Purse

I found my sketch book. *cue happy cheering* I would like to apologize for the poor quality of these sketches. I am not a very good artist. If someone who is a better artist than I am would be interested in helping me bring these posts about the wildlife and plants of Evandar to life, that would be fantastic. Right now, I can not offer much in monetary compensation. But, email me and we'll discuss it.

First images presented are those of Beggar's Purse. I didn't have my colored pencils on hand to provide color for the image. I apologize that these are in pencil. Pencil is the medium I have the most control over. I am hoping, however, to move to doing pen and ink sketches as I get better with my dip pen.

Locales: Graleryn

Graleryn is the smallest of the Seven Kingdoms that make up Evandar. Surrounded by the kingdom of Moesia, Graleryn is a land that lives under the constant threat of hostility. Once, Graleryn extended from the Rock east to the border of Ranyth. Moesia considers Graleryn a satellite kingdom. This leads to conflict between them at the High Council. Open hostilities between these two have not happened in a few generations. The war, however, is still remembered. Graleryn was not completely overrun by Moesia in that war because of the dangerous and wide rivers that lie on either side of it.

Graleryn is a kingdom divided as well. The northern portion of the small, but prosperous, kingdom is ruled by King Cagdas Agha. The southern portion of the kingdom as known as Gwohar and is ruled by Queen Asterith. Technically, these two rulers are wedded and the law of the land is divided between them. There is, however, sufficient tension between the two that Gwohar is recognized as a second seat upon the council in honor of Queen Asterith. This was a political move intended to bring greater stability into Graleryn. Thus far, it seems to be successful.

Graleryn is a region with rich lands. The warmer climate and very fertile fields allows the people of Graleryn to grow exotic produce and medicinals. The wealth of Graleryn comes from the trade of these products in the north of the kingdom and the sea trade in the port cities of the south of the kingdom. Graleryn is technically in an uneasy truce with Moesia but Queen Asterith seeks to regain the eastern lands they lost.

King Cadgas Agha, born of the line of the first king of Graleryn, only wishes to maintain peaceful relations with the surrounding kingdom. His grandfather, Cadgas the Wise, was the one who negotiated the truce with Moesia. Queen Asterith comes from a lineage that claims eastern lands as their due. In Graleryn, there is many petty nobles who lack lands but possess wealth due to skill in trade or ancestral wealth. The queen is descendant from one of the most powerful of these petty noble families.

King Cadgas Agha's power is not as far reaching as his Queen's. Thus, the representitives to the council have come under her power, giving her a double vote on the council.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

On the banks of Is

Zafar had lain in the dungeon beneath Julara's temple for over a day. Sorenan was not sure what the additional time meant. The traitor had answered his questions and there was nothing more they could learn from him. The blond man walked along the river bank where the river passed through Dacia city. It was a sacred place that was where many gardens grew. With out their tenders, the gardens has begun to get a bit ragged as weeds invaded. Sorenan stopped beside a bunch of ornamental grass, passing his hand through the delicate blades.

They tickled the palm of his left hand but Sorenan paid the sensation no mind. He looked over the gardens of the nobles, not really seeing them. In his mind, Sorenan saw only the open desert with countless men marching across it. He struggled to think of how one would stop such a wave of humanity. The war with Temna didn't become real to him until Zafar described the sacking of Midthar. Now, the former mercenary questioned what he was going to do.

General Zalaz and Marcos had come to expect him to share some sort of his understanding of the art of war as they discussed fortifications, defenses, and maneuvers of the troops. His frustration with the seemingly endless waiting had turned to uncertainty for how he should proceed or what he could advise them. His skirmishes with his troop seemed inconsequential. A battle with ten or twenty men, Sorenan was confident he could plan and win. But when the men at his command numbered in the hundreds and thousands, Sorenan felt a little sick and unsure he could rise to the challenge.

It was in this frame of mind that Mina came to him. Sorenan half expected to see the dark eyes and dark skin of Julara when he saw her approaching. The white veils and robes with their girdle of braided silken cord that she had worn when Sorenan was lead by her to the chamber where Zafar was being tortured were replaced with Mina's customary black. At her waist, a silver girdle rested with a jeweled knife on her hip. It was something that she began to wear the day after it was apparent that war was coming. Within her black garments, Mina's pale skin seemed luminous and her green eyes shone with an almost eerie light.

A part of Sorenan wanted to breathe a sigh of relief that his lover was no longer godridden. He, however, couldn't shake the feeling that trouble was following in the wake of the High Priestess of Julara and Empress of Dacia. Sorenan turned to face her, sketching a half bow as she drew near. "Lady," he said, his tone sounding more solemn than he had intended. Mina stood at Sorenan's side and looked on the waters of the river Is.

"We are going to meet Temna on the sand plain," she said. Sorenan nodded, recalling that Zalaz had said such an action would help draw Temna's forces away from Dacia city. "You are to ride with Marcos," she continued, sounding tired and sorrowful. Sorenan reached over and took Mina's hand. "I didn't want this," she continued, "Mother has forced our hand. Even now, I feel her near. There is something more she would have me do, but I don't know what. Only that she told me to seek you."

Sorenan turned and looked intently into Mina's face. Lines of worry were etched about her eyes that he did not recall seeing before. Her typical expression of serene stillness was no longer present. Now, she seemed watchful and wary. "It has been too long since you have smiled," Sorenan said, reaching up to brush aside an errant lock of hair that had escaped the confines of her veil to lay upon her brow. Mina closed her eyes at the feeling of his fingertips against her skin. Gently, Sorenan cradled her right cheek in his hand.

"There is no reason for joy," Mina answered. Sorenan took her face into both hands and lightly turned it up so that he could gaze into her eyes when she opened them. "I will weep like Mother," Mina said, swallowing past the lump in her throat, "You and Marcos will..."

"Be carried through this by Ashur's will," Sorenan said, "And your tears will be joyful upon our return. The river Is is not only Julara's tears of sorrow."

Mina gave a shaky sigh. "I don't know what Ashur wants of me," Sorenan said, "But I trust in his might to carry us through this." Mina gave a weak smile.

"You trust them now?" she said with an air of forced lightness.

"What choice do I have?" Sorenan said, "They have both looked me in the eye and declared that I will serve. I am a mercenary, I go where my employers send me. Ashur and his wife send me to fight Temna."

Mina wrapped her arms about Sorenan's waist and put her head against his shoulder. "I don't want this," she said very quietly.

"This is not about what we want," he answered soothingly, "It is what is necessary. We must protect you and Dacia. And we shall do it well." Sorenan placed a kiss on the top of Mina's head. Muffled slightly by her head, he said, "Many will not come home after this. But I will bring him home alive to you. I promise." Quietly, Mina wept with her fear for her husband Marcos and the solemn man in her arms.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Delayed Post!

Today's Flora et Fauna post is delayed until Wednesday. I think I might have found my sketchbook. In the meantime, here is a quote from one of the future books.

The sons of Men stand as the shadows fall.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Craft of Writing: Writing with out a net.

I like to think of my plot maps and outlines as my safety net when I am writing. I can always check them to make sure that I am on track to hit all the key elements of the story I want to tell. They give me a feeling of security and make me more comfortable with the story. It is something that I find very gratifying and soothing. (Much of my writing comes with thereputic qualities for me.)

Sometimes, however, I write with out that safety net. I can not say that one method is better than the other on the terms of what is produced. I may be more comfortable with that safety net, but some times you have to do the uncomfortable thing to grow. I make it a practice to put aside time to write with out a plot all planned out. In that writing session, I follow the story as it develops. It becomes something like what a famous Ray Bradbury quote once said, "Plot is the footprints of your characters in the snow on their way to adventure." (I'm not 100% sure I got that quote right, but you get the feeling.)

It is sometimes exhilarating to be writing with out everything planned out. It is like riding a roller coaster and you have so many plot twists you suddenly come upon. It makes you a little giddy, a little dizzy, and maybe a little sick. I have days where I seek out that excitement because I'm tired of the stately pace of plotted work.

It is sometimes horrifying to be writing with out a net. You may find yourself struggling to come up with more material to continue the story. Or stuck with out a consistent thread to tie all of the work together. It may turn into jumbled stream of consciousness writing that lacks any logic and fails to tell a story. The efforts to wing a story may turn into something that you want to shove into a draw and refuse to acknowledge it ever existed.

In both cases, however, something valuable comes out of it. You gain more experience at your craft. You become stronger at coming up with plot elements and recognizing when phrases fit together right. You learn to relax your strict standards for the sake of telling the story. And you come away with the evidence that you can do this with out your safety net. It may not be much but this strengthens your confidence as a writer.

The wonderful thing about this is that you don't have to share your literary experiments with the world. In fact, it is a good thing to keep a separate place where you do your written experiments that you have complete control over what anyone sees. Making the act of literary experimentation a private thing, you give yourself the freedom to write badly with out any criticism. Regular forays into new and unfamiliar ground with writing techniques helps to breathe greater life and depth into your chosen work.

Screw your courage to the sticking place and do that high wire act of writing with out that net. You may fall, but you may also fly. And unlike a real high wire act, you don't have to worry about injuries after that fall. In the end, it is all a learning experience. And learning experiences are good.

Food of Evandar: Witch's Kiss

Witch's Kiss is a potent alcoholic beverage that is found predominantly in the mountain regions of Evandar. It is, however, something that can be found through out the seven kingdoms. Made from malted grain and aged in charred oak casks, Witch's Kiss has a base that is essentially identical to whiskey from our world. After the alcohol has aged properly, it is then infused with the spice Fireweed.

The flavor profile of Fireweed is a cross between that of hot pepper and cinnamon. To obtain something that is similar, infuse a quantity of whiskey with hot pepper followed by cinnamon. Take a fifth of high quality whiskey and transfer to a quart jar. Clean and remove the seeds from a jalapeƱo pepper and cut fine. Place the sliced pepper into the jar with the whiskey and place the lid on top. Place the jar in a cool, dark place (like a cupboard shelf) for three weeks.

Remove the jar from its place where it has been infusing. Strain the peppers out of the whiskey as you transfer it to another quart jar. Break a stick of cinnamon into several small pieces. Place them into a cheese cloth bag and add the bag to the jar with the whiskey. Cover the jar and place in a cool dark place. Allow this to infuse for three weeks. Remove the jar from where it has been infusing. Remove the cinnamon and pour the whiskey through a coffee filter to strain out fine particles before putting it into the container it will be kept in.

This is consumed by the shot glass but some will drink larger quantities, as will happen with hard liquor in a hard world.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Public Notice RE: Comments

Hi everybody,

I just wanted to make something crystal clear. You are welcome to comment on my posts. I moderate them to make sure that everything is respectful and above board. I would appreciate if people kept their comments on topic with what the post covers. That said, I recognize that sometimes it is hard to tell if a comment matches the topic. So, I try to keep that in mind with respect to what comments get posted up here.

That said, I do not take kindly to people using this platform to harass, belittle, or otherwise be a dick to people. It is one thing if you have something funny to say. Sometimes, vulgar humor is pretty funny. But, if it strikes me as offensive regardless of how well intentioned something is, I'm not giving you air time on my blog.

Additionally, if any sort of products, services, or other related material goes up on here, it is because I am posting it. If you want to recommend something to me or request a review of something, email me. I have an account that is set up to take messages just from my blogs. I check it every few days. (I'm actually going to do that right after I hit publish on this post.) I am not going to permit people to use the comments on my blog to bandy about some product or service. You don't get free advertising.

If you want to advertise, contact me. We can work out an arrangement. I'll even make sure that there is a Twitter post to the blog entry, provided you compensate me for it. You have any questions or comments about this, email me.

This is MY blog. My blog is a benevolent dictatorship. My word here is law. If you don't like it, don't post in the comments. In fact, I invite you to take my blog off of your reading list. Because if you can't respect me and my rules, I'm pretty sure you're not going to like what I post.

Promotional stuff & Recommendations.

Hi folks!

I don't have much to promote this week. As always, I request that you take the time to check out my books (titles given below). I also would be delighted if you took a moment to share my blog with anyone you think might be interested.

I do, however, have a few recommendations. Anyone who is participating in NaNoWriMo this year and is on Facebook should check out the unofficial NaNoWriMo group. They are a fantastic group of people and an endless well of ideas. This group is active all year and has great tips for writers of any genre. You get to rub elbows with successfully published authors from traditional to self-published. And they share some of the things that helped them succeed. There is also a great deal of silliness that happens. (Wait until you see the stuff with the elephants. It is adorable and hilarious all rolled together.)

I also recommend that you check out R.R. Virdi. He's more than just a great author. He is quick to encourage others to chase their dreams. He is always encouraging others to view their work in the best light possible. An all around great guy, R.R. Virdi is one of the most friendly and approachable up and coming authors I have ever met.

And I strongly recommend picking up a copy of the anthology The Longest Night Watch. In addition to being something in honor of the late Sir Terry Pratchett, the proceeds from this book go towards the Alzheimer's Association to help fund research for a cure. The authors involved in this anthology are all really strong writers with a marvelous take on the world. This is a great book for a great cause in honor of a great man.

As I mentioned earlier, please consider picking up a copy of one of my books.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

What I'm working on: Writing time!

I have put the revisions for book three of the Umbrel Chronicles of Evandar on hold. I will be getting that one out to press. My plan is to have it available for purchase around Valentine's day. (Because nothing says 'I love you.' like a book about the horrors of a castle occupied by hostile forces, right? If it works for G. R. R. Martin, why not me?) But, that process is on hold right now.

I am at my favorite part of the writing process: writing the first draft. I have started work on writing book six of the Umbrel Chronicles. I am about a third of the way through chapter one. I makes me happy to be back in the world of Evandar. I find writing stuff set in that location helps me in many ways. The biggest way is that it relieves that itch to create something with the written word. I also find it very cathartic is more ways than I can express.

I am, however, hitting a few bumps. I have so many different characters that I am seriously considering making up a chart to show the relationships between them. It has me wondering if people who have written series of books have done the same thing. I have to go back into the other books to make sure that I have names and descriptions right. It is taking as much time as writing up new material. I'm pretty sure that is why I don't have chapter one finished right now.

The hardest part of the process right now is avoiding distractions. Because sometimes I get a little frustrated with how a scene is coming out and look for something to inspire me. This ends up, often, with my watching cat videos and derping around on Facebook. And now, Twitter is becoming part of the distraction websites. (This is why I usually close my web browser when I'm writing.)

Still, I am actively writing book six. This is a huge source of excitement and glee. I'm still planning on doing NaNoWriMo. I have a lot of fondness for it because that was something I did with my late dear friend, Liz. It is something that helps me keep something of our relationship alive even after she has passed. I think, however, that my efforts are going to be split between two different writing projects. I think I am not going to have this book finished by November first, so it will be one. And I am planning on writing a revision of Seeking Sanctuary, a fetish/science fiction book set in a world more like ours.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Locales: Moesia

Moesia is the southernmost of the Seven Kingdoms. Stretching along the southern border of Evandar from the Shattered Mountains to where the Dragon's Spine mountain range meets the Vreth Sea. A narrow kingdom compared to the others of the Seven Kingdoms, Moesia's lands are primarily those at the edge of the sea. The major industries of Moesia are trade, mining, and fishing. To the north, Moesia borders Dakon-Bar. Near the heart of Moesia is the much smaller kingdom of Graleryn, all that remains of that kingdom which had once been the eastern border.

Moesia's fame lies in the blood stained history of the lands. The rocky lands to the east and western portions of Moesia are sources of great wealth and important resources. Many battles were fought over control of those resources. Prior to the establishment of the kingdom, there were also battles between those who lived along the coast and the inland people. Moesia was established as a kingdom during the Great War of the last age in a desperate attempt to preserve the people against the encroaching armies from the west.

Originally, it was half the size it is now, with the eastern most border falling at where the Rock peninsula is located. On the western side of the Rock, there are shallow waters and much of the fishing trade is poor. On the eastern side, however, the waters are deeper and the harbors are better suited to larger ships.  The sailors of the western coastal waters have a reputation as fierce raiders. This reputation is well earned, though the raiding parties no longer harry the eastern coastal waters but rather the lands elsewhere about the Vreth sea.

One of the warmer lands of the Seven Kingdoms, Moesia's climate is far more temperate than that of the northern kingdoms. The lack of substantial farm lands, however, puts Moesia in something of a disadvantage. The people of this kingdom are known for their hardiness and their ability to adapt to situations. This flexibility makes soldiers from Moesia particularly difficult to defeat because they are opportunists and will use unconventional means to achieve their goals.

Another reason Moesia is known is because it is the location of Gaulrin. The city of Gaulrin is home to a mining operation of exceptional cruelty and violence. The mining is predominantly done by prisoners and slaves. Gaulrin is known for hanging particularly violent offenders of their laws outside the city walls as a method of execution and a warning that they will not tolerate disobedience. This practice has had some infamous parties executed through it. It is also the reason why a noose is known as the Gaulrin necklace through out most of the Seven Kingdoms.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Confession of Zafar the Betrayer

Sorenan stepped up to Zafar's side. The councilman turned traitor shrank away from him, shrieking in preemptive terror as he waited for a blow to fall. "I would ease your pain," Sorenan said sadly, "For you are a man, not a beast." Zafar's cries were suddenly stilled as Sorenan's words penetrated the haze of pain and fear. "I am not permitted this," he continued in that disappointed tone, "I will, however, push for your punishment to be less... horrid, if you speak to me. Your life is forfeit. But this does not need to last longer. A clean death would be a mercy to you. Tell me what you have told Temna and I will do what I can to help you."

Zafar began to weep. He had not expected the Lion of the North to come to him. He had not expected Sorenan's quiet words or the promise of possible ease of his torment. He thought of his brother, the priest-king of Midthar and how the lords of Temna who came killed him. Zafar's promised peace and prosperity was ripped from his hands the instant they came into the city. Midthar was sacked, though she had offered no resistance. Zafar could only watch in horror as the slaughter happened.

When he and his brother had been brought before the leaders of the army encamped before their walls, Zafar was filled with awful regret. They were told that their reward of peace was awaiting them. For a moment Zafar hoped for exile. Then the sword fell and his brother's head rolled in the dust of the city square. He expected to be killed as well but they let him live. He was told to return to the Empress with a message. That message was the head of his brother.

It had taken him two weeks to reach the outer edge of the encampment before Dacia and Asser. Zafar was brought before General Zalaz and he begged for death. The general brought the distraught Zafar before Marcos, who knew with some supernatural certainty what Zafar had done. He said but one word to the councilman. Confess. Weighted with the power of Ashur's voice, Marcos's command was irresistible and Zafar told his king what crimes he had committed. In the midst of this confession, the Empress herself arrived, godridden. As Marcos passed judgment on the traitor, Mina spoke. She declared that Zafar would be interrogated for knowledge of the enemy before being slain.

Her appearance had changed significantly, enough so that all of the audience chamber was disturbed but for Marcos. Her voice had taken on an alien depth and a tone of command that rooted all listeners to the spot but for her husband. He was then brought to the chamber he lay in now and all became a blur of pain. Questions came but Zafar couldn't answer them. But the questions did not stop, nor did the punishments for failing to provide answers.

"Please, kill me," Zafar sobbed, "I know nothing." Sorenan looked at Zafar, doing his best to push aside his disgust with the situation. "They came out of the west. There were so many of them, I couldn't count them. They were lead by four men. One of them was the raider who would be king. I knew him by his scarred face. He looked like the silk merchant Abraxas, but for the scar," Zafar babbled as he had to the torturer. Where she had continued to tighten the rack, Sorenan said nothing.

"They betrayed us," Zafar wept, "Not even the children were spared. They came to the walls and when they came in, their swords were set upon us. Women were cut down as they fled the market. The watch were overwhelmed. They said we would be given peace and prosperity. They said that the shadow of war would pass away from us quickly. That once the Empress surrendered all would be well."

Sorenan's discomfort with Zafar's agony turned to anger as Zafar told him of the monstrosity of the sacking of the city. He said nothing as Zafar sobbed with pain that ran deeper than the agony of the rack. The sword-bearer of Ashur turned and walked to the door that Julara-Mina had exited through. "Their blood is on your hands," Sorenan said as he looked at that door, "The city of Midthar is dead because of your cowardice. You and your brother are responsible for their deaths. Your attempts to gain protection from war by surrender, they have caused this."

Sorenan thought of the villages in the north and the death that the tribesmen had brought upon them. Those deaths were less vile. The leaders of the villages fought with their people to defend them and died honorable deaths. Zafar's brother was murdered by the enemy. While the councilman cried ignorance as to why it happened, Sorenan knew. A turncoat could not be trusted. It was better to slay them rather than await their eventual betrayal. If it were not for the slaughter that came of Zafar and his brother's treason, Sorenan would have appreciated the irony of how their conquerors played them false.

Sorenan set his hand upon the door. "Please," Zafar begged tearfully, "kill me." Sorenan looked over his shoulder at the man on the rack. Then he looked away and opened the door. Sorenan exited into the passageway and Zafar gave an agonized scream, pleading for death. Coming down the passage was a Sister with a lamp. Behind her came Julara-Mina. She looked at Sorenan.

"Lady," Sorenan said, bowing to his godridden lover, "you are early."

"And you have an answer to my questions," she replied. Sorenan straightened up and nodded.

"The main force of Temna is encamped at Midthar. Althar is with three others, leading the force. I can only assume that Omuranth's sons are there with Temna's generals," he replied, "Zafar has spoken. He knows nothing more of Temna's plans. He and his brother were betrayed as they betrayed Midthar."

The godridden priestess nodded. "His death," Sorenan said looking away from his lover and into the darkness behind her, "It would be too easy, even with the eagles. They sacked the city. Their blood is on his hands."

"Death is not an escape," Julara-Mina said, "Only a gateway. I shall attend to him when his last breath is lost in Ashur's." Sorenan nodded. "Sword-bearer," she said, "this is but the first of evils you will witness. Blood flows like the river of my tears. And, like Is, it shall rise from its banks and flood the valley in its due time. Only driving them into the black sands will the valley be spared."

Monday, October 5, 2015

Flora et Fauna: Beggar's Purse

In the mountains of Evandar, there is a plant that blooms in the late autumn a few weeks before the first snows. It is a small plant that has little, if any, medicinal qualities. There are some who claim that carrying sprigs of it will bring good luck. Others say that it will bring financial ruin. Beggar's Purse is so named for the blossom that looks roughly like an empty bag. The blooms are a cream color and they smell musky.

It has broad leaves that grow in a spiral about the stem. During the warmer months, Beggar's Purse is easily confused with broad leaf Plantain. These earlier season leaves are smooth. As the summer wanes, however, Beggar's Purse puts out a second set of leaves. These have a fine down over them. After a minimum of three hard frosts, Beggar's Purse puts up a stem with its bloom. The bloom only lasts for a day. The plant, however, will have multiple blooms in succession on the stalk. It dies back once the leaves are covered.

Beggar's Purse is edible but it tastes very bitter. Cooking it twice over takes some of the bitterness out, but it is impossible to completely eliminate it. Beggar's Purse propagates by way of runners. It is possible to start a plant off of a cutting, but only if it is taken in early spring.

Edited Oct. 17,2017 to add this illustration.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Write with passion, edit cold.

It is sometimes a bit daunting to jump into writing. Some days, I spend my time looking at cat videos, drinking coffee, and feeling like I've lost something vital because I can't manage to put words to the page. Other days, I feel like a god. Words reel out like silk and every one is driven with an edge of madness. Those days where writing is a heady experience are kind of addictive, to be honest.

After a day or an hour of writing in that state, I find myself tempted to rush off to publish. I am excited and convinced that what I have written is solid gold. That drunken state of giddiness is not the right one to be in when I'm looking over my work when the first draft is finished. It is good to write with that mad fever of euphoria. It makes the writing time fly by and I feel fantastic after I have done so. It is like a wee touch of mania, with out the urge to clean everything in the house or follow some wild idea to do something like start up a business. (My hypomanic episodes pretty much manifest with something along those lines every time. And I can't sit still and focus long enough to write.)

But I can't let that kind of high get in my way after the first draft is done. If writing with passion is a necessity, then editing with a complete lack of emotion may be one as well. When I don't hang my heart on a character or a scene, I find myself able to edit more efficiently. I can dissect my prose and trim away that which is unnecessary. The ability to rip apart something that I have written comes to me far better when I am calm, if not indifferent to the work.

Some times, I feel like when I am in the editing process that I have divorced myself from the source of my inspiration. It is not the case, but when I have no emotion as I work, I feel queerly disconnected. But, in that dispassionate state, I am more likely to catch errors, notice missing scenes, and spot when I have switched up names. I don't read the work as I thought it should be. I read it as it is. And that, my friends, is the key to good editing.

Write with frenzy, fury, and madness. Pour your very soul into your work with the intoxication that comes with the inspiration. But, when it is finished, cut and trim with a heart of stone. Work with out emotional ties to the outcome. Because that is where you find that which is the heart of your story and free it from the confines of error.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Recommended Resources: Languages

I have been attempting to develop languages for my little world. It has been a bit challenging because I am not a trained linguist. Throw in a touch of a learning disability and languages become difficult. In my efforts to develop languages, I draw a lot off of what is already present in our world. Right now, I am active in the effort to use loan words from Anglo Saxon for a group of people and devise words based off of this language.

It has been exceptionally helpful to use the Old English Translator. Between this site and my books about the development of modern English, I have been able to put together a few sentences in old English and insert terms where they'd make sense. In using this site, I have found that precision in your word search is vital. Also, searching out synonyms is a very good idea, because it heightens the likelihood of you locating the one term that you need.

I also have been finding it helpful to use kennings, which are explained very well at Young Poets Network's page here. This practice is a great way to retain some elements of Anglo Saxon wordplay with out having to struggle through the process of finding the right term and the correct way to conjugate it. It was a little awkward at the beginning to create kennings but after a little practice it became fairly easy.

The thing that really has been exceptionally helpful in all of this is reading translations of Anglo Saxon literature. I have been rereading my copy of Beowulf and trying to emulate what I have seen in there. If you are considering picking up a copy of this epic saga, I highly recommend Seamus Heaney's translation. I also recommend looking into other works, such as Cademon's Hymn. Also, consider picking up J.R.R. Tolkien's two volume Book of Lost Tales. His work draws heavily off of his own research into the Anglo Saxon language and can help a modern writer develop something that is similar to the ancient sentence structure and pattern of poetic structure.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Food of Evandar: Nursemaid's Sop

Just as there are special dishes in our world that are just for children (or the young at heart), there is food in the world of Evandar for the youngest of folks. Nursemaid's Sop is a dish that is given to children who have just stared on solid food, the infirm, and the elderly who have difficulty chewing food. It is an incredibly simple dish with a few variations. At its most basic, Nursemaid's Sop consists of bread that is toasted, crumbled, and soaked in a liquid until all the liquid is absorbed.

The variety of Nursemaid's Sop that is given to small children is most frequently a savory version made with broth from the stockpot. It is this version that is found through out the Seven Kingdoms, regardless of the station of the person being served. There is a spiced savory version that is served in wealthy houses and to the nobles. In addition to this, there is a sweet version that is made with almond milk and honey. This occasionally has spices in it, but only if it is being served for medicinal purposes.

Nursemaid's Sop is used as regular fare but it is also used as a vehicle to serve medicinal herbs to those who may not tolerate the herbs directly. Most often, the sweetened version of Nursemaid's Sop is used by the upper class to deliver these healthful herbs. The almond milk and honey are mixed with either the herbs directly or a tea made from them, dependent upon the herb used and the constitution of the person receiving it.

In the houses of the lower classes, sweet Nursemaid's Sop is a rare treat. In these houses, it is made with the fresh juice of pressed fruit or the liquid from stewed fruit. Most frequently, the savory version of Nursemaid's Sop is what is found in these homes. In some cases, Nursemaid's Sop is the only meal served along side porridge in an attempt to extend food resources. Old bread is used by the poor, when it is available, to make this dish as well. When made from dry, old bread, some people simply call it Sop, reserving the term Nursemaid's Sop for the variety made from toasted fresh bread.

Nursemaid's Sop is also just called Sop. Distinguishing between the different varieties of Nursemaid's Sop that one may find in their travels is challenging. Each region has slight variances upon what is served, dependent upon what grows there and the predominant livestock raised. Thus, Dakon-Bar's Nursemaid's Sop will be quite likely to have a venison broth base where as the Nursemaid's Sop that you could find in Aelethemer is more likely to have a mutton broth base.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

What I'm Working On: Revisions.

It has been a challenging week. I had stuff distracting me a lot. (I'm looking at you, my lovely boys. *glares*) I think there is some kind of conspiracy to make me write with that frustrated tone. It has been bleeding into some of the revision work I'm doing on book three. Fortunately, however, the scene I'm working on involves a frustrated adult dealing with a misbehaving child. Because the Little Queen is not the perfectly behaved child that people wish she was. She's been acting out because of the stress of everything happening.

It is kinda refreshing to actually use some of the material I learned ages ago in Child Psychology. I never thought I'd be using it in my writing. I always thought it would be something that would come up in the classroom. (I dreamed of getting my masters and teaching certification after I finished my bachelor's. Life had other plans.) It is a bit difficult to recall what my childhood was like. So, I'm drawing inspiration off of what my children and the kids around me do. I never did like it when fiction featuring children turned them into miniature adults. Kids are entirely different from adults and we really should write about them in proper context.

I've been making adjustments to the map that I drew up years ago. It is an absolute mess. I was going to post a picture of it. Then I started making notes and stuff. It is so much of a mess that I am kinda ashamed of it. I do, however, have a picture from very, very early on in the development of Evandar. I actually have two of them. I have the first map I ever drew of the region, back when I thought Evandar was just one kingdom. I also have one of the first character sketches I drew. The female figure is supposed to be Sideria, the elf woman who watches over Thora and Cormac, among many other things.