Wednesday, January 27, 2016

A question for the Readers.

Hi everyone!

I am a little bit under the weather right now. This is making it difficult for me to concentrate to get quality writing up here. It is also making inspiration something that is in short supply here. I wanted to ask you all to help me out with something.

One of the things that really inspires me when I am writing is music. In the comments, please recommend the music that you feel is best suited to writing high fantasy (or any other genre, I'm not picky). With your recommendation, please state what you like about the work you are suggesting. I am looking to build a new writing playlist and I am somewhat overwhelmed by what is out there.

Also, I am doing something of an informal poll. Should my next serial story be folklore of Evandar or should it be something more like Dacia's War, a longer story that is told in a series of snapshots. Again, note your feelings in the comments on the post. I am torn between the two options and I need your help to decide what is going to be next.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Book Status Update!

Hi everyone.

It has been a rough couple of months. I am temporarily stalled on my work for the continuation of the story of Thora and her companions. I have book six sitting in limbo waiting for me to finish the first draft. Book three is still in the process of editing (which is proving more challenging than I anticipated). I am, however, working of background material and in the process of drafting out the plot for the prequel trilogy. I anticipate that I will be beginning work on that in March.

I am reaching a point where I have books one and two one step away from e-book publication format. I will post links to them here when they are ready. I am also at the point where I am starting to look at what I will use for cover art for book three. I am seriously considering drawing something up. I'm just not sure how to transfer it to digital format. I am excited to have new materials to be sketching out.

As a part of my effort to improve my mental flexibility, I am going to resume painting in the near future. I am honestly not sure what I will be doing. I hope, however, to get a painting finished every two weeks. I will share pictures of them when I do my updates on Thursdays.

Until next post, have a wonderful day and thank you for supporting my work.
~ Deb

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Floods in the Desert.

The city of Dacia and the village of Asser burst into celebration as word of the victory at the Black Sands of the south came. Mina continued to sleep within her chamber. It was six days that she had lain unconscious. The best of Julara's healer priestesses attended her and did their best to wake her but nothing came of their efforts. They brought water from the sacred river Is, the very tears of Julara herself, and sprinkled it upon her face, but Julara's daughter did not stir.

When the sword-bearers of Ashur passed through the city gates, they were given a hero's welcome. The general was greeted with equal exuberance but he was indifferent to it. Zalaz was tired from his journey and wanted to go home. He wanted to sink into Yaeli's arms and sleep until he was no longer sore from riding. As they drew closer to the courtyard before the temples of Julara and Ashur, Zalaz found himself suspicious for reasons he couldn't place. Something about the celebration seemed off to him.

They entered into the courtyard and were met by the Silent Sisters, the lower order of priestesses of Julara. There were many veiled women in white about the courtyard. Zalaz was surprised by the sight, recalling that the last great congress of the priestesses of Julara came when Mina's predecessor was fatally ill. Marcos saw the priestesses and his heart clenched with fear. Sorenan, who didn't understand the significance of the number of priestesses in the courtyard, was filled with annoyance that he couldn't just ride across to where one of the acolytes of Ashur would take his horse and he could get a cup of wine to quench his dust dry throat.

Marcos dismounted halfway across the courtyard. Sorenan followed his lead, as did Zalaz. They lead their horses through the press of women. Three priestesses dressed in blue so dark it may as well have been black stood upon the steps of the portico of the great temple of Julara. Their veils were richly embroidered about the hem with a recurring pattern of water droplets and lilies. The healer priestesses had come to greet the sword-bearers of Ashur when an acolyte had seen them enter the courtyard.

As Marcos's little party stopped at the steps of the temple, Sorenan looked towards the temple of Ashur. The eldest of the blue priestesses walked down the steps and looked solemnly up at Marcos. A small woman, the wrinkled hands with their blue tattoos seemed as though the size of a child's as she reached forward to take Marcos's hands. "She sleeps," she said, "but Julara's daughter will not wake. She has slept now for six days. You must come to her. If it is her mother's will, the Empress will awake for her Emperor." Sorenan's attention had snapped to the priestess when she spoke.

Now he looked troubled. He started forward when the old priestess fixed him with a dour glare. "He comes," Marcos said in a tone that would have no argument. The priestess scowled but said nothing. Zalaz took the reins of the horses and watched as the husband and the lover of his Empress went to her. As he did so, Zalaz felt a tremor of fear for what would become of the empire of Mina died.

Sorenan struggled with the urge to push the priestess aside and sprint to Mina's bedchamber. The sedate pace the old woman had set had more to do with the length of her legs and the frailty of her bones than any desire to irritate the man in his dingy white armor. She couldn't help, however, a sense of satisfaction as she watched his frustration grow out the corner of her eye. As they walked, Marcos had fallen silent. Sorenan attempted to ask questions and the priestess refused to speak a word to him.

At the doorway to Mina's bedchamber, the two men found other blue priestesses. One held a bowl of blood to be cast away. The other had fine linen bandages in her hands, stained with Mina's blood from an earlier bloodletting. Sorenan's anger rose up white hot. He found himself ready to demand to know why the healer's were slowly killing his lover when Marcos looked over. He gave a slight shake of the head and Sorenan glowered, but said nothing.

Within the bedchamber, Mina lay upon a narrow bed covered with a thin blanket. Her hair was fanned out over the pillow beneath her head. Upon her left arm, a bandage was wound over where the elderly priestess had done the bloodletting earlier. Her right hand laid upon her stomach, ominously still. Marcos walked to the head of the bed and leaned over. He spoke quietly in Mina's ear. Mina gave no signs of hearing him, she did not stir or make even the slightest of sounds.

Sorenan thought of the man who died in a fashion similar to how Mina appeared to be. He was struck upon the head and fell to the ground unconscious. The man died after six days of sleeping sickness. Sorenan looked at Mina, seeing how still she lay, and he felt his strength fail him. Sorenan hit his knees at the foot of the bed. He reached blindly forward and grasped Mina's left foot. Speechless with grief, the mercenary bowed his head and silently wept.

Sorenan didn't lift his head at the feeling of a warm hand on his shoulder. He covered his eyes with his left hand and shook with the force of his ruthlessly repressed sobs. Marcos, however, straightened abruptly at the feeling of a hand on his shoulder. He was painfully aware that it was but the three of them in that chamber. Thus, when a cool hand fell on his shoulder, Marcos turned to face the one who touched him. Marcos's eyes widened at the sight of a slight woman with dark hair, olive skin, and dark eyes looking at him. Her gown was almost iridescent and threw abstract reflections of the candle light about the room.

Julara gave him a kindly smile. Marcos looked over at Sorenan and found Ashur standing at the foot of the bed. "This is the first of the tests that shall come for you," Julara said behind him, "My daughter shall live, but she shall be changed. The change is working within her even now." Sorenan raised his bleary eyes and looked at Julara. He couldn't see the goddess clearly through his tears, but he didn't care.

"You have loved her as I have loved her mother," Ashur said, squeezing Sorenan's shoulder lightly, "This proper and blessed. As the next months move forward," the god continued, "Her weakness shall require your strength. Keep the blades sharp, for Temna will rise again. And they shall call your wild kinsmen to their support. She lives and shall for as long as Dacia remains free."

Marcos turned his gaze back to Mina. Julara reached past him and set a cool hand on Mina's brow. Ashur reached past Sorenan and set his warm hand upon her ankle. Mina's eyes flew open and she drew a deep gasping breath. As she arched beneath the weight of the gods powers, visions of the future and the past rolled through her mind. She collapsed back to the bed, shuddering. Sorenan bolted to his feet and rushed to the head of the bed. Mina turned her weak gaze upon Marcos and then Sorenan. She smiled.

"I have waited for you, my beloveds," she said.

The touch of the power of the gods was not lost upon Dacia. The wind rose up strong and blew in off the desert in what would prove a terrific storm that lasted three days and three nights. The river Is overflowed its banks, washing away the gardens of the wealthy. When the desert born storm passed away, a powerful rainstorm fell upon Dacia city. The people of the city noted these storms and feared for the future.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Flora et Fauna: Liar's Weed.

Liar's weed looks much like morning glory. Having similar shaped leaves and blossoms, it is a diminutive version of this plant with a bit of a twist for Evandar. Liar's weed is also known as bindweed, because of its propensity for the vines to grow over things and tangle among themselves as it grows. Liar's weed has blossoms that are prolific.

At two centimeters in diameter, the blossoms are not as visually impressive as some other plants that can be found in the regions of Evandar and similar climates. They have an ombre shading with the deepest color at the outermost tips of the petals and the lightest at the center. Most liar's weed has flowers that move from a deep red to an orange that is similar to what is found in tiger lilies. The central stamen of the flower extends a few millimeters beyond the edges of the blossom. It is white and the pollen is also white. The leaves are heart shaped and are a dark green. The vine is a green-purple, similar to the stems of chocolate mint. Liar's weed does not have much of a discernible scent.

Pollination of liar's weed is primarily done by bees. It is, oddly, not a flower that is frequented by humming birds. This may be because of the toxicity of the nectar. The blossoms are marginally edible after they have reached peak. They are bitter and if consumed in great quantity will cause one to have problems with diarrhea long before a fatal dosage is ingested. The leaves of liar's weed are toxic to humans but not to ruminant animals. The vines are similar to the leaves, though they are tougher to consume because of their higher fiber content.

The seeds of liar's weed form in pods that have four cells. In each cell, a pea sized seed forms. The seeds are not fatally toxic. When dried and ground to a fine powder, liar's weed can be mixed with alcohol to form a liquid that is functionally a truth serum. The effectiveness of liar's weed as a truth serum is not as effective as the folklore states. The quantity of the concoction that needs to be consumed for liar's weed to be a truth serum on par with what its reputation states is high enough that the person ingesting it will acquire alcohol poisoning. Putting a greater amount of liar's weed powder into the alcohol solution does not result in a stronger effect. Indeed, doing so can make the effects of liar's weed diminish after a saturation point is reached and one runs the risk of poisoning via the seed.

Poisoning by way of liar's weed blossoms before they have reached the stage they can be consumed is a more extreme example of what comes with over consumption when they are edible. Fatal dosage of liar's weed brings on abdominal cramps, diarrhea, vomiting, and increased blood pressure. It is the increase in blood pressure that causes death. Most often, people who have had a fatal dosage of liar's weed will die from a heart attack. In the rare cases that the sudden increase in heart rate doesn't equate to a fatal situation, the person poisoned will experience a lingering death by way of dehydration and starvation because of the other symptoms.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Craft of Writing: Longhand vs typed

When I was younger, I did just about all of my writing longhand. One reason was because I didn't have much access to a computer. The other was because notebooks and journals are far more portable than those clunky monsters that we had in the 1990s and double aughts. I still do a considerable amount of longhand writing on a regular basis. I type a great deal now. It is not because I have lost my taste for longhand.

With a laptop computer being a lot lighter and more portable than they used to be, I am finding that my writing is increasingly being done from the digital format. Honestly, I think about 75% of my writing is done on the computer. I have come to the conclusion that if I am looking to produce a large quantity of writing, typing really is my best option. I type far faster than I write.

Still, longhand has a great deal of emotional appeal for me (and I'm sure for other writers). There is a romance to longhand writing that can not be denied. It is a far more intimate and personal format to produce written work. If you don't believe me, look at the difference between a handwritten letter and a typed one. That handwritten letter has subtle changes to the pen strokes and the pressure applied to the page as the author moves through their feelings regarding the subject matter. Items that are of emphasis are subtly made more so through the fact that the author will press harder into the paper and their script shifts in spacing and height. You can't accomplish this with typing unless you start playing around with fonts.

I find longhand to be something that I have a great deal of affection for. I have discovered that my writing in longhand tends to be more emotional and more visceral than my typed texts. I also have discovered that longhand allows me to adjust my work more quickly. I don't claim to understand how this works. It may just be a difference that I feel and it really is not there. Still, I do the majority of my drafting out ideas and concepts through longhand. I even get picky about what tools I use for what type of writing I am doing. It varies by subject and focus. There is a reason why I have a large collection of varied pens and pencils.

I don't have the same degree of flexibility in typewritten work. Still, I can sit down over the course of an afternoon and produce up to five thousand words in the same length of time that it would take me to write closer to one thousand longhand. I find that typewritten work is easier to edit. I also find that typewritten work is a lot less effort to get ready for publication. Longhand requires the entire body of work to be reproduced before you can really do anything with it. And at least one additional round of editing because of potential mistakes made in the process of transferring the work from your notebook to that text document.

Some day, I will write a full novel out via longhand. I know that filling up a 300 page journal is not going to equate to a 300 page typewritten text. The project that I am looking at right now, actually, is going to wind up in multiple notebooks as I work up the rough draft. I haven't decided if this handwritten project is going to go to publication. It really is something that I'm doing for the sake of my sanity. Still, as I sit down to work, I have days where I question if I should just be typing everything up. Then I get caught up in my writing and I find myself feeling a stronger connection with what I'm working on than I do with just about everything I have ever typed.

Longhand has its strengths. I am opposed to the idea of cursive no longer being taught in schools because so much communication is done through typing. One reason is because cursive is what will allow you to read historical documents. As someone who prefers going to primary sources as often as I can when I am doing research, I use my skills for reading and deciphering longhand a lot. I also find that longhand has a wonderful aesthetic quality that not even the prettiest type fonts can reproduce.

At the same time, typewritten work is very much a product of our era. And it will most likely be the primary mode of written communication in the future (as it is progressively becoming in our era). I would be a fool to dismiss it or its power. Skillful manipulation of type fonts and page format produces a different kind of aesthetic quality than what you get from longhand. It is a difference that is rather stark in comparison.

It is like comparing the work of the Dutch Masters to Pablo Picasso. They have both done portraiture and made impressive contributions to the body of work that is the visual arts. And just as these two different schools of art bring different ways to manipulate and present an image, so too does longhand and type. I am firmly of the opinion that there is an element to writing that is visual. Some people have declared me a bit weird for the fact that I find great satisfaction in just looking at well crafted sentences. I appreciate them on the level of seeing how the clean lines and the elegant combinations of glyphs can communicate a truly deep thing. I, however, may be something of an outlier on this front. This random aside done, I wish to close by saying that longhand and typewritten work both serve the same purposes, which is to communicate information. In the end, no matter how it looks visually on the page or how the author emotionally feels about the format they are using, they serve the same function and should be appreciated on that basis. The rest of it is just window dressing to the real craft of communication.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Road to Zard Kuh (part III)

Mina stood facing south, her eyes open wide and staring. Her right hand twitched, as though pulling upon threads. It was the dead of night but the high priestess of Julara, her chosen daughter, was awake. She had not slept in the six days that Marcos and Sorenan had been away. It was not grief or anxiety that kept her away. Mina's gaze was not her own, for Julara had reached through her into the world of men.

Brown eyes looked past the night scene of Dacia city towards the deep desert beyond the plain. They had been fixed on the horizon since the moment Mina walked to the balcony to try to see Marcos and Sorenan's horses going into the distance. The moment she walked through the doorway in the upper portion of the temple, a change came over her. It was subtle at first. The acolyte with her noticed that she had unbound her hair beneath her veil. It was thought that she was observing the traditional gestures of grief. Then her veil slipped from her head and the filet it was pinned to fluttered to the floor with out any hands to remove the pins. Indeed, when the acolyte stooped to pick them up, she found that the pins remained in the veil.

The acolyte fetched the priestess that was presumed to eventually be Mina's successor. As the black haired and green eyed woman approached, she could feel the energy in the air, as though she was standing at the banks of the river Is when it was in a flood. "Lady," she said, but there was no answer. She reached forward to set a hand on Mina's shoulder when Mina lifted her hand. A voice that rang with power spoke from Mina's lips.

"Pray for the sword-bearers of Ashur," Julara said, "Go to the desert priests and instruct them to give offerings for victory. Battle is at hand." The priestess and acolyte looked between themselves uncomfortably. Mina's right hand twitched and moved as though plucking and pulling threads in the air. The hand did not fall or cease its motion. For six days, Julara-Mina stood at the balcony and gazed southward, seeing the first battle unfurl, the pursuit, and, now, the second battle in the black sands about Zard Kuh though they were beyond the distance that human eyes might gaze.

Earlier in the night, Julara-Mina spoke for the second time since she had stepped on to the balcony. "In the sand mirror of the priests, scribe that Zard Kuh awakes." The priests of Ashur, with their arcane might and the strange magics of the desert wrote their message. Away to the south, Marcos heard it blown on the wind and began his preparations for the attack upon Temna's weary army. Now, another acolyte and priestess stood vigil. They waited with food and wine for Mina. They were weary but their fear of Julara was great enough that neither woman shirked their duty. Many were the tales of fallen servants of the river goddess of the fertile flood plains, none of them ended well.

Now it was past the time that the mother moon was at her zenith. The children of the mother rose to their apex as the mother strode towards the west. It was deep in the night. Watch fires about the city were burning low as the third watch were relieved by the fourth watch. On the balcony, Julara-Mina twisted and manipulated the threads of magic that were about them. Away to the south, the sorcerer son of Omauranth did his best to summon the demons of the black sands to his will. Their blood hunger was infamous.

His ward of flame around the sword-bearer of Ashur that he could see lit the night brilliantly. As the dead rose to his command as the spirits inhabited them, the battle turned against Dacia. At the same time, the living of Temna's army found themselves trapped between the horror of the dark desert's monsters and the fury of Dacia's army. Those who could flee ran off heedlessly into the night. Clouds had gathered over them, but the sorcerer paid them no mind. He was sure it was the clouds of ash blown from Zard Kuh, as he had been told came when the mountain shook and light with unnatural fire. His focus was upon controlling and directing the monsters he rose from the dead.

The fire before him burned and unnatural color. Within it, a man's hand smoked and charred. It was the hand of the sorcerer that stood before it, sacrificed for his magics. The bloody stump closed itself as though it healed or was sealed by fire when the spell began. Weakened by his bloody sacrifice, however, the sorcerer was vulnerable to influences. He was so concerned with the direction and command of the demons that he didn't realize the air about him was changing.

When the first fat drops of rain fell, the sorcerer wave a hand to bat them away, as though they were insects. The rain began to fall harder at a shockingly quick rate. The sorcerer grew angry with the situation and began to throwing what he could onto the fire to make it burn hotter. About him, the demon possessed corpses began to move less smoothly. For a moment, the fire flared up bright and hot when the sorcerer threw a wine skin into the flames. In that moment of brilliant light, he saw a man cutting through his defenders. As the bodies of the dead men reanimated, the man laid about himself with a fury that was inhuman.

The sorcerer shrieked at his defenders to kill the man, but all of their blows were turned aside and they were slain. The undead soldiers reached for him. He cut them down as they came, somehow continuing forward. Marcos reached the sorcerer. The man gave a scream of terror that was silenced with a swift blow. The fire persisted and the demons ran free. They attacked each other and all of the living. Marcos kicked the sands into the fire as the rain came down harder. As he did so, he was fending off the repeated attacks of the animated corpses. After what felt to be an eternity, the fire was out.

With the extinguishing of that fire, all of the corpses dropped to the ground like puppets with their strings cut. Bodies that were hacked apart fell to the ground in pieces. The ring of fire about Sorenan and Zalaz went out with the witch fire of the sorcerer. For a moment, they groped in the darkness. Then, as their eyes adjusted to the burning encampment's gloom, they realized that victory had been achieved, though they were not sure what the cost was.

Away at Dacia city, Julara-Mina collapsed with her spells complete. The women with her dropped their goods and rushed to her side. As they lifted her up, they feared she had died. The faint rise and fall of her chest told them she lived. They did not know for how long though as they carried her away to her chambers.

Background work in progress.

I've been busy with 'real life' over the last several days. Somehow, in the midst of it all, I managed to snag some writing time. (Update for Dacia's War is coming later this evening. I just have to get it typed up.) I started out in my journal writing about random stuff and what I saw at the diner I had lunch at. (If you're ever in Lakeville, check out the Family Diner. They're in expensive, have good food, and their staff are a riot. Seriously, these guys have a fantastic sense of humor.) Somewhere in the midst of finishing my cup of coffee and paying the check, I got the idea in my head to try to do some planning for how I am going to move forward with everything in Evandar.

(Yes, the prequels are coming. I have the plots drafted out. I anticipate a trilogy. Look for the first book in that triad next year around late September. ♥) I got home and sat down in a comfy chair with some Qntal playing (because you always need mood music, am I right?). As I spent the two hours I had free until the kids got home from school, I started drafting out details about my little world. I went back to an idea that I had way back when I attempted to write the very first draft of book one of the series. (This was in 1993, in sixth grade, if you're keeping score.)

I was enamored with Tolkien's world and especially charmed with the languages. In the first flush of enthusiasm, I came up with some random gibberish that was supposed to be a language. This was then forgotten as I built up world history and such. This afternoon, however, I sat down and gave it some serious thought. I realized that I had to fill in some holes in my story which arose from the lack of languages. I now have two notebooks. One is for the rules and development of words. The second notebook is for the devising of alphabets and how to write in my shiny new languages.

I don't know how long it is going to take to devise these languages and I realized I needed more than one. I am planning on posting some pictures as I work at it. Before I can start doing that, however, I need to work out the rules of my languages and how to put them together. I have a brand new set of pens that I purchased recently on a whim. One of them has a brush tip which will be great for the calligraphy style language I have decided is going to come into being and the sigils that will be magical short hand.

I'm not sure how the others are going to look but there is going to be at least one set of letters based off of runic and one based off of ancient Pictish glyphs. I figure if I do it right, I can probably come up with something that looks close to what people wrote in antiquity but with my own twist on it. First, however, I have to sit down and study my books about the development of the English language (which I have a passing familiarity with but I need to deepen it). And probably go through the couple of language text books that I have kicking around my apartment to work up something that is semi-functional before I start making letters to go with it.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Locales: Dragonwood Keep

The ruling seat of the petty kingdom of Dakon-Bar, Dragonwood Keep is a castle of great antiquity. In the first Age, it was a wooden hall with a palisade about it, sitting on the crest of the hill known as Sigurt's Knock, situated on the southern side of the mid-portion of Dragonwood forest. Dragonwood Keep was established in the first Age by King Sigurt I, the hero who was an avatar of the Storm Lord himself. The hall of his father, Eru the Bold, was initially known as Heirot.

Heirot hall was a large hall in the style of the communal halls of the pre-migration era Kordid. Heirot was said to have a hall large enough that three men could ride their horses into the building with out difficulty. It was a place of much feasting and gaiety in the years before the Great War. Heirot had a roof that was hammered copper, according to legend, that shone like a keen blade in the afternoon sun. The hall's door were massive things carved of black oak. Depicted in the engraving upon these doors was the scene of Sigurt's victory over Morguthu when Roen was rescued. Among the images about this scene were depictions of the famed deeds of Eru's ancestors. These doors were, strangely, among the few things that survived the burning of Heirot during the Great War.

The hall was large enough to seat all of Eru's band and their kinsmen. It was not, however, the primary home of his men. Eru, his wife, her brother, and their servants lived within the hall. It was, however, a place that once daily, all of Eru's band came together to conduct business. Heirot was a famed place where the elfin king Freyr Greenwood came and gave homage to king Sigurt I and asked for and received his blessing. Heirot still stood when Sigurt I assumed his father's place as a young man. For Eru died from a wound gained while hunting. Some say he was gored by a stag, others say it was a boar. When Eru joined the ancestral heroes in the green fields beyond death's passage, Sigurt I rose to kingship at the age of sixteen summers.

The burning of Heirot was a traumatic thing for the sons of men. The deamonic horde lead by Atrionac, Morguthu's eldest and favored son, fell upon Heirot when Sigurt was away consulting Freyr Greenwood's sorceress bride Gerda on how to best oppose Atrionac. Sigurt returned to Heirot and found that his bride, the sorceress Roen (who was also an avatar of the goddess of the same name), had been ravaged by Atrionac and blinded. The queen listened helplessly to the slaughter of her people even as Atrionac visited violence upon her person. She was left laying at the gates of the palisade on the edge of death for Sigurt to find.

Sigurt's anger was a terrible thing to behold. He swore that the hall of his fathers would be rebuilt and never suffer from flame's touch. The stone hall was built by the stone masons who were educated by Agrimonn's craftsmen, who lived beneath the hills. The stone hall was wide enough to seat a hundred men in comfort. It was fitted with benches of black oak wood and trundle tables of the same. The throne of Sigurt was carved from a lightning struck red oak and was placed at the head of the hall. Behind the throne was the private chamber of the king and his family, a wooden wall blocking them from the rest of the hall and accessible by a door with a finely wrought lock that bore three jewels.

About the hall was a wall of stone and then a palisade of wood. At the bottom of the hill, a stream ran and made a natural barrier for foes as well. As the descendants of Sigurt grew and the holdings of Sigurt's line increased until they ruled over the whole of Dakon-Bar, the palisade of wood was replaced by a wall of stone. Within the inner walls, a garrison was built. The village that once was within the walls moved outside of them to beyond the stream. Towers were built shortly after the second stone wall about the stone hall. They were built so that a person could move between the walls and as places where important figures would remain.

At the southern tower, since the first stone was laid, the Lord High General had his quarters. This person is no longer a permanent resident of Dragonwood Keep, for many generations. These quarters, however, have been kept in the spartan conditions he preferred. With King Askemb's assumption of power, this chamber is now where his spiritual adviser, Osgoth the White, resides. The eastern tower was once a place that visiting dignitaries were housed. It is now a cold chamber where Askemb keeps his prisoners of importance. The irony of this choice is lost upon the king but the servants of Dragonwood Keep and the thralls are not unaware. The northern tower was once known as the Queen's tower and was the place where the unfaithful queen of Sigurt III was imprisoned until she took the vows of the Order of the Twilight Rose and left to die in obscurity somewhere in the eastern lands. At the base of the Queen's tower is the entrance into the dungeons of Dragonwood keep, which were formed of laid stone and earth beneath the garrison along the inner western wall. The western tower is known as the Guard's tower. Here, the Marshal and the captain of the King's Guard have their residence. It is also where the armory of the castle is located.

During the reign of King Erian, his queen, the sorceress Asriel, used her magic to make Dragonwood keep larger. Stories say that when she became impatient with the builders, her magic set the great stones of the walls dancing into their new places. With these developments, a granary was built in the inner court yard of the keep. The great temple to the gods was built in the first Age and when Dragonwood keep was changed, glass windows were placed in it, beginning as gemstones and then transforming by way of Asriel's magic into larger windows of colored glass. Asriel's magic also worked to make the temple larger and in the fashion of the great temples in Tor Caldri.

The walls of the inner keep were transformed into larger spaces. Within them, there were passages hidden and secret rooms. The stone hall at the heart of the castle had two larger halls added to either side and joined to it. The hall on the western side held a chamber for the royal servants of the king and queen. It also holds the kitchens and laundry. The hall on the eastern side of the chamber held the queen's apartments, the king's study, the king's bedchamber, and the royal nursery. The hall on the eastern side has two stories. The hall on the western has one.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Flora et Fauna: Deadman's Tails

The plant Deadman's Tails grows in rich loam soil where there a great deal of nitrogen. It has long, sword like leaves that grow up in spikes in early spring. Young leaves are a bright green which darken as they age over the season and grow to full length. The full length of the leaves of Deadman's Tails are approximately a meter in length.

The central stalk of the plant puts up a spike of flowers around midsummer. The spike is of the same length as the leaves on the plant. If the plant is growing in optimal conditions, that spike will be a meter long. In less prime growing conditions it will be shorter. Deadman's Tails are a plant that requires a great deal of light, thus it will be found at the edges of bogs and swamp land. It can grow in watery conditions but it will not put up the spike of flowers.

The flowers of Deadman's Tails are peach colored with crimson stripes towards a central stamen that is crimson. The shape of the flowers is vaguely reminiscent of that of the hibiscus but they are less than an inch in diameter. They open during the day and close at night. The scent of Deadman's Tails is akin to that of a rotting corpse. It is pollinated by flies.

After the flowering cycle of the plant is finished (late summer), it develops a catkin of seeds. The seeds have thin filament tufts on them which allows them to be carried on the breeze to where they will grow next. When the plant reaches the end of its above ground  growing cycle, the leaves of Deadman's Tails yellow and then dry out before falling off. The reedy central stalk dries out and eventually falls over.

Underground, Deadman's Tails has rhizomes that form a ball beneath the plant. These rhizomes are edible but tasteless. It can be propagated from rhizomes, but the plant will be of lesser quality than one that is started from seed. Deadman's Tails take three years until the the rhizomes are over an inch in length. The rhizomes will grow up to four inches in diameter. These mature rhizomes have a woody layer beneath the skins which must be scraped or cut away before preparing as food stuffs for humans.

Deadman's Tails are more common in low land environments. When grown as higher elevations, the flowering cycle is much shorter and the over all lifespan of the plant is decreased from twelve years to something closer to eight, at most, with the final rhizome being approximately two and a half inches in diameter, at most.

Friday, January 8, 2016


Hi there, everyone.

I would like to apologize for the lack of content recently. I have been ill and most of December was chaos in my household. When I am well, I will resume posting as per the schedule I had established. I will also attempt to throw out a few new and interesting tidbits. I am currently flipping through my sketch book to decide what artwork I will be sharing with you. While I have a lot of abstract art, I am looking for things like scenes from Evandar to share.

Right now, this depressive episode is making everything look rather hopeless. It has been hard to stay on top of the household chores, let alone get any serious writing done. I hope that after this weekend, I will have more energy. Today, I am doing a little better than I was yesterday. I felt well enough to go out of the house for a walk and I did some work on my anxiety knitting project (a very simple top-down shawl pattern).

I did set myself a goal for 2016. I decided that I was going to read a book a week and post up a review on my Livejournal account. I don't have the review written yet, but I just finished reading The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer (ISBN: 9781455581092) and I was really impressed with it. I had some vague knowledge of Amanda Palmer by way of some internet kerfluffle that managed to pop up on Facebook a while back. Reading about it from her perspective was really interesting. I'm going to try to get that review done Sunday. When I have it finished, I will post a link here for you guys.

Thank you for your patience and for sticking with me through this.

Peace, Love, and Cupcakes!

Monday, January 4, 2016

Craft of Writing: Rest and Recharge.

It gets exhausting to work on a book. There is this myth that authors must hide away in a garret and work slavishly away at their manuscript before offering it up to the world. (I have a lot of issues with this myth, but I'm only focusing on one right now.) It is important to take a step back away from the Great Work and rest. If you force yourself to be 'on' all the time, you face the risk of burn out.

We're all familiar with the effects of burn out. We feel hopeless, over pressured, tired, as well as mentally and spiritually drained when burn out hits. It is important to take some time to take care of yourself when you are a creative person. As tempting as it may be to focus strictly upon the ecstasy of creating, we need to remember that all things must be taken in moderation.

Sitting at a computer typing all day with out any breaks will make you have headaches and eventually develop carpal tunnel syndrome. The same is true for writing out things longhand or pretty much anything else that involves repetitive stress of that sort. Sometimes, the brief break of looking away from the computer at something across the room or outside is just the thing you need to rest your eyes. Sometimes taking fifteen minutes to rest your hands and wrists helps make them feel more limber and able to resume work.

But there are times where you need more time to rest than those fifteen minute breaks. Sometimes, you have to put that project in a drawer and forget about it for a little bit. Taking a complete break from the project allows you to rest your mind for a little while. You can work on other projects (ideally completely different from what you were to begin with) or you can do something completely separate from what you were working on (like baking cookies instead of writing). This divorce from your project untangles your thoughts and allows you to rest.

Rest and recuperation are important to anyone who regularly exerts themselves. It is just as vital for an artist or an author as it is for someone who lifts weights. And it is for similar reasons. Taking time to rest helps you regather your strength. It allows allows your muscles to recover from the strain that you were putting them through. In the case of an artist or an author (or anyone else who does something that is a much more low impact activity than lifting weights) what you are allowing to recover from the exertion is your mind. (And what ever you are using for your work.)

It is important to remember that the activities that help us to recover from extended mental effort are going to be different for every person. Some one may find that sitting and reading the cheeziest books they can get their hands on is a perfectly restful activity that leaves them feeling refreshed and ready to get back to their creative work. Another person may find coloring does so (and thank goodness for the trend making it 'ok' for adults to do this relaxing activity). Still another person might find that they feel best after some quiet meditation or a walk in the woods. And this is ok, because every person has a different way they look at the world and differences in how they process it (which leads to difference in their creative output).

Taking a rest and doing things that help us feel more creative is important for our work. It gives us new eyes and new ideas for how to approach it. It helps us to approach our work with greater clarity. And, when we've been upset with how it was progression, greater calm. So, take a moment, get your beverage of choice, kick your feet up, and relax for a little bit. Your work will be better for it and you'll be healthier. Everybody wins!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Road to Zard Kuh (Part II)

Zalaz noted how Sorenan and Marcos divided the fighting men of Dacia between themselves and left a third group for him. Marcos motioned towards the right as Sorenan moved off towards the left. The column of the army of Dacia divided into three. Zalaz, realizing he was to take the center part of the wedge they formed, shook his head. A sound of thunder split the night as eerie light moved down the western flank of Zard Kuh. Zalaz took the spear handed to him by his lieutenant even as he made sure his sword was loose in its sheath.

"Forward!" Zalaz bellowed, "Give no quarter!" The fighting men of Dacia did as he ordered. As they rolled into the camp of Temna's weary, terrified troops, the men before them were all but crushed beneath their feet. Zalaz gave a silent prayer to Ashur that his sword-bearers lived through the night, knowing that Mina's grief would be more terrible than her anger. His half distracted consideration of the situation was abruptly dropped once he encountered an opponent that actually was organized enough to defend himself.

Zalaz's spear was abandoned somewhere behind him along his path through the campsite. He instead hewed his way forward with his sword. Now, the black haired man was facing an opponent with had more than his trousers in hand. The Temnian man swung an axe at Zalaz, who stepped back. The notched blade whistled past him. As Zalaz came forward to attempt to land a blow on his opponent's right side, the axe man reversed his swing. Zalaz stepped inside the man's swing, where the man's hands and the haft of the axe met struck the general's side. Zalaz elbowed his opponent in the face and pushed him off his stance with the force of the blow.

As the axe man staggered back, Zalaz made three swift strikes. The forearms of the axe wielding man spouted great a great gout of blood where the first of the blows landed across them. The second blow took his foe in the right side. The third came down on the man's right leg at the knee. The axe man dropped his weapon and fell to the ground. His screaming was silenced with Zalaz's sharp kick to the head. Another warrior of Temna came forward. As Zalaz engaged him, he felt the wild rush of battle madness strike him.

Somewhere between his cleaving the man's spear haft in two and Zalaz reaching a place where he could hear Sorenan singing a northern battle song, the general had acquired a slowly bleeding wound at his left temple and his right arm burned as though someone had thrust a fire heated blade into his bicep. Zalaz, however, had left all of the men who came against him dead. The battle madness lifted when Zalaz found himself at the center of the camp with an eerie calm all around him.

Though his wits felt thick and his body hurt, Zalaz looked around himself attempting to determine what changed. He felt more than saw the spear hurling towards him from the right. Despite his injuries and exhaustion, Zalaz managed to step back, shift his grip on his sword to his left hand, and catch the spear as it whisked past him. Zalaz turned and faced the man at his right that had thrown the spear. He didn't think. He didn't try to judge how far away the opponent was or guess where the running man was going. Zalaz simply rode the eerie calm that flooded through him. He threw the spear and took the fleeing man in the back. As he dropped to the ground, the general turned to see Sorenan stride into the zone of dead calm where he stood.

Sorenan's black leather armor gleamed in the light of the burning pavilions about them. "Althar is dead," Sorenan called to him. Zalaz nodded. They started to move towards the far side of the central circle of the encampment when a cold wind began to blow about them. Zalaz's gut told him that this battle was taking too long. The wind began to circle around them and the flames of the burning pavilions began to stretch higher up towards the dark sky.

"Omauranth's sons," Zalaz said, looking towards the right left where Marcos fought somewhere in the chaos, "One of them is a sorcerer," Zalaz said, "We must find them and kill all of them, to be sure." As Zalaz began to move towards the otherside of the encampment, the flames became a wall of fire before him. Zalaz stumbled backwards away from the roaring inferno that suddenly stood before him. As the two men looked around themselves, they realized that they stood within a column of flame.

Zalaz stooped to pick up one of the corpses to throw it into the flames and make a brief breach for them to pass through. Then the dead man's eyes blinked. Zalaz stepped back. The bodies of Temna's dead general and his senior commanded twitched on the ground before them. The calm that came of Ashur's touch for a moment was pushed back with unreasoning fear. Men who fell on the field of battle were supposed to remain dead. Especially if they had a limb or two hacked off. But the headless Temnian general still moved and groped about. When the grisly head was taken in hands and set upon the stump of the neck, eyes the color of witchfire opened and turned towards them.

The animated corpse opened its mouth and the two men watched in horror as the teeth lengthened and sharpened. The corpse of the other warrior took hold of its missing half of its lower leg and pulled it to meet the stump with its left hand before dragging the severed right arm to its shoulder. The second corpse also took on the same strange green flame colored gaze and its teeth changed as well. Rising from the ground, the creature reached for Zalaz. Zalaz's sword gleamed in the firelight and decapitated the commander, again. The body continued to shamble forward, hands grasping for Zalaz's neck.

Sorenan's sword came down and the hands dropped to the earth, scrabbling over the sand like some strange creature. After a time, the hands met the ankles of their previous owner and began to work their way up the body. The head gnashed its teeth and glared at Zalaz with a look of hatred so pure that it was clearly inhuman. Zalaz dropped his sword and took hold of the animated corpse. He threw it into the burning ring of fire about them. The body stumbled about, the clothes catching fire even as the hands made their way to the wrists.

The body of the general grasped Zalaz's fallen weapon and came at him. Zalaz gave a choking noise of pain as the sword cut through him. Sorenan knocked the dead man away from the general. Zalaz watched as the blond haired man known as the Lion of the North fought with the living dead. As Zalaz felt a terrible thirst and weariness fill him, he knew he was going to die. He thought of Yaeli, his beloved concubine, and prayed that Sorenan or Marcos would see to that she was cared for.

And then the hot breath of the desert at midday filled his nostrils. Zalaz looked about himself and discovered it was daylight and that he was alone in the white sands north of where the battle was taking place. He moved to sit up and groaned with pain at how his abdomen felt. A man stepped up to him, his face hidden in shadow as he knet beside Zalaz's head. He put a hand under Zalaz's head and lifted him up some.

Holding a vial of some liquid to Zalaz's mouth, the man ignored the question that Zalaz attempted to croak out of a mouth that was painfully dry. The liquid dripped from the vial and Zalaz felt as though fire burned through him as it slid down his throat. The wounded general screamed in pure agony but still, the liquid was poured in his mouth. A desert eagle hopped on the ground beside him. It's sharp beak pulled at his wound, only furthering Zalaz's anguish.

The man made a dismissive motion to the bird and it hopped away. He set a hand down on Zalaz's stomach and the wound knit itself closed. Zalaz stared up in the face of the man kneeling over him and his eyes opened wide in amazement. The one kneeling over him looked as though he was brother to Marcos and Sorenan. As the heat of the world cooled and everything began to change, the man rumbled, "Arise."