Monthly Archives: November 2008

Revision progress: “Mask of Destiny”

I finally finished reading through the entire 130 thousand words of it, marking errors and making revision notes with my pink pen (yes pink).  At least the second half is pretty clean, but I need to do some major rewrites in the first half.  I originally thought this two-book YA trilogy was going to be one book, but the first draft kept getting longer and longer and longer…until finally I gave in to its desires instead of mine, and split it in half.  I am not one of those sensible, sane people who can write an outline and stick to it.  My version of an outline is a folder full of napkins and little torn squares of papers with scrawled notes, bits of story, and characters’ names.  So while my beloved First Reader was reading “Mask of Destiny”, I was working on the first draft of the second half, book number two: “Mask of Fate”.

Needless to say, my original perception of where the story was going to end up changed somewhere in the middle of book two, a major character changed, and now there are any number of annoying little and not-so-little details I wrote in “Destiny” that now have to be re-written to jive with what happens in “Fate”.  It’s a bloody good thing I find revisions fun and relaxing (it’s first drafts that scare me spitless!)  So I’m actually looking forward to beginning the process.

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The Bridegroom Arrives in Sarn

Below is an excerpt from a fantasy work-in-progress.  Hope you enjoy!

The city of Sarn is built of red stone, tier on tier of high balcony and tower.  By night the stone is black, but it holds the heat of blood until morning, having soaked up sunlight with the jealous avidity of an old man licking up a virgin’s tears.  Sarn at night is a place of tombs, of revels.

But all of this is only what is written in books, by men who have not been there.  There are no tales told of Sarn, only rumors.

Lining the wharf were iron cages, gilded over with thin, flaking peels of gold.  And in the cages were strange, elongated people, people with silver-smooth skin and perfect features, people with long silken tangles of hair that seemed to shimmer and dance over their shoulders and down their naked bodies.

I stared; everyone in my caravan stared.  The heat of Sarn’s red stone burned up through the thin leather ship soles of my boots and a fine red dust wafted up through the swirl of our cloaks and into my face.  The dust burned like pepper on my tongue and in my throat.

“Where is the welcome?” my captain asked, staring in open dismay at the confusion before us.  “My lord, perhaps it were better we should return to our ship.”

“No!”  Narus, my youngest retainer tore his gaze off the iron cages and held out his hands to the city, where we could clearly see the tall sharp spires of the Bloody Hall.  “Should we hide on our ship like frightened children?  My lord, if they will not come to us, let us go to them – let us storm their city like true conquerors!”

In truth, I did not want to return to the ship myself.  My throat was afire with the dust of Sarn.

“We will go,” I said, “by that road,” and I pointed down the market street, where the iron cages stood.

“My lord,” the captain protested, but I pushed past him, Narus so close behind me that he trod on my cloak.  My other retainers followed, leaving the captain scrambling to assemble a proper guard.

It was more than a slave market; Sarn was a city whose breasts gave suck to the sea while her buttocks perched on the desert cliffs.  Everything could and did come to her, either by caravan or ship; and there were things in that market that I had never even heard described in my land.   Small glass balls held light captive, cloth rippled with strange colors, exotic spices and queer twittering birds with frail claws and trailing feathers that drooped in the red dust.  Jewelry of gold and rare stones, mahogany chests spilling out brilliant silks and gold thread, velvet-furred cats, and cats with no fur at all, books bound in thin leather and each letter painted by a monk’s hand, monkeys, and silvery black and gold fish.

But the slaves were the heart of Sarn’s market.  Not just the beautiful ones, those caged as the centerpiece, but also the slaves in the cages of bent and ugly iron in the side alleys of the market, the slaves who were twisted and ugly as their cages, inhuman in horrible ways that made me shudder.  They had horns or hairless fleshy tails, or faces mashed inward like pugs, or boars’ tusks, or masses of black curled hair covering their bodies.  Their eyes glinted yellow and slitted like cats’, sly in their ugly brutish faces.

One of the Sarnese merchants spied us lingering beside his iron cages and sauntered out of his striped tent, taking in our wealth with a casual glance at our boots and weapons.

“I have a pretty fae who likes to dance,” he said, “she moves like a wave, all curve and passion.”  He insinuated his body between us, turning us back toward the gilded cages and his more expensive wares.

“She is all pleasure, for a patron of the arts.”  He ran his finger lightly down a gilded cage, watching for my reaction.  The fae inside was round-fleshed and pearly-skinned, with masses of golden hair that wound around her ankles and spilled out of her cage and into the red dust.  Her hands lay palm-up and limp beside her thighs, as passionate as dead fish.

“Or perhaps…”  The merchant gave me an evaluating stare and then turned us toward the cages filled with beautiful men. “Perhaps my Prince would prefer one of these?  They are the best of their kind, easily taught in all skills, from acrobatics, to serving, to…whatever pleases my lord.”

I told myself to be impassive, and must have succeeded because the merchant smiled instead of seeking shelter behind his cages.

“Where do these people come from?” I asked.  “Do you breed them as you do your camels?”  There were so many rumors told of Sarn’s slaves, these fae who do not thrive outside of Sarn, who spindle and die if they are transported beyond Sarn’s port.

“They are all wild-capture; they cannot be bred.”  The merchant idly smoothed down the curls of one of the fae men.  “Let me make you a gift for your welcome, Prince – whichever of these you favor most is yours.”

My captain’s fingers closed on my arm although I did not need his warning.  I knew not to accept bribes from these people, these sly Sarnese.  But it did not matter; I did not want one of these strange fae, who watched with the dissipated coolness of cats despite their cages.

“I have servants of my own.”

The merchant shrugged and bowed over his hands as he stepped backward into the blowing shade of his pavilion, the stripes undulating with heat mirage.

“Great heavens,” my captain murmured, releasing my arm.  I don’t know whether he was reacting to the fae, or simply the heat.

A horn blew, echoed in cacophony by a dozen more, and my captain’s hand went to his sword.  He looked down the market street and his hand fell away in fresh astonishment.

Sarn had come to greet us at last.

A menagerie of strange animals rumbled toward us: camels and lithe desert horses with scarlet tack and pompoms tied to their reins, tiny wild-caught deer crowned by massive gilded antlers and ridden by winged fae, goats, zebras, giraffes, and little dun-colored cats that weaved with military precision through the differently jointed legs.  Towering over the other beasts was an elephant, ridden by a man who was neither fae nor Sarnese.

He looked like one of my own people, well-tanned and leanly muscled, with a just-barely tamed tangle of dirty blond hair.  He was even dressed more in the style of my people than of the Sarnese: simple well-cut breeches and shirt, tied with a sash and a belt for his sword, although my people didn’t wear such a clash of colors as he did, blues and reds and oranges and purples.

He threw out his arms as he approached and slid off the back of the elephant, the elephant coiling her trunk around his waist to ease his drop to the ground, and walked to us with a slightly effeminate swagger.  It seemed deliberately false to me, and I didn’t protest when my captain drew his dagger and stepped between us.

“Who are you and what do you want with my prince?”  It was hardly the most politic greeting, but I could hardly blame my captain for his assumptions.

The elephant rider stopped short, cocking his head.  “Why, do assassins always come riding an elephant and blatting horns in your land?  Shouldn’t you assume I’m here to welcome and greet your prince and react accordingly?”  He tutted and turned his attention to me, bowing with an elaborate courtesy that seemed as false as his swagger.  I wondered if he were mocking me.

“I am called Gilly, and I am sent to bring you to the Court of the Seven Daughters.  Will you be welcomed freely, or must I fight your man for the honor of escorting you?”

My captain put up his dagger, glowering.  “We’re not riding those blooming elephants.  Not any of the other things either.  We’ll walk, if Sarn’s hospitality can’t spring for a carriage.”

Gilly didn’t turn so much as a eyelash toward him, keeping all his spotless attention sorely for me.  It felt odd, as though I should be looking for an enemy sneaking up behind me.  “If my prince will come with me?  Your men may return to their ship, or to their own country, whichever they prefer.”

“We’ll come with the prince,” my captain said.  His fingers were twitching in the folds of his breeches, wishing he hadn’t put away his dagger, but clearly feeling he would lose face if he drew it again.  “We don’t leave the prince’s side, and we don’t go home until he does.”

“I think you’ll find,” Gilly said, still entirely focused on me, “that your contract clearly states that you only are welcomed into Sarn’s court – as the Bridegroom – for the Sarnese court does not welcome outsiders.  The contract also states that should the Sarnese fail to guard your safety, their kingdom will fall to yours.  There can be no higher surety than this.”

“You’re not Sarnese,” I said.  I knew what the contract said, although I had naturally assumed that ‘you’ meant me and my retainers.  That the Sarnese would demand I separate from my servants, I had not considered.  I wondered if my father had known when he had signed it.

Gilly shrugged.  “Your men cannot make the sacrifices that I have made in order to belong.”

Where do you get your ideas?

If you’ve ever put together a jigsaw puzzle, then you already know how a writer comes up her ideas.  It’s one meaningless piece at a time, pulled out of a jumbled cardboard box of everything a writer has seen, heard, touched, felt, dreamed, or imagined – because all writers are fearful magpies; we collect and hoard every little thing that crosses our paths, as though anything might be the last of everything.  Eventually, since all jigsaw boxes are finite, our box starts bulging at the dreams.  Things start leaking back through into our ordinary life; we find ourselves standing motionlessly in front of the running tap while we consider an image of a deep city of darkness falling away beneath our feet, or a man with a feather quill writing words into flesh with ink and blood.

And we know it’s time.

We pour out our box onto the table, and we start sorting through the pieces, looking for the ones that shine the brightest, or have the most lovely gloom.  They are a bit of overheard conversation, a magazine headline that we misread in an interesting way, or the sound of a mother calling her child home in the darkness.  We turn those pieces this way and that way, until they join together in our imaginations, and we see a little glimmer of the finished picture – no more than a single window in our mythical deep city, perhaps, but enough to show us where they connect, and the place that gives them meaning.

digital contact

And it’s in that place that a story is found.

Well, until I’m published…

…and my publishers choose some god-awful cover for my books that make my readers want to rip the covers off, I’ve discovered a new game!

I’m a member of deviantart.com, and while I was browsing other artist’s collections and galleries, I thought: I wonder what a good cover for my books-in-progress would look like? So I started looking for that perfect illustration among the many talented artists of deviantart.

First, for my two book YA series, I found these:

the_stairs_by_jakatta1008

http://jakatta1008.deviantart.com/art/The-Stairs-101484373

It’s not perfect, because of the girl’s dress, but otherwise I really like it.

And for the sequel, I found these two:

girl_with_a_lantern_by_pastoral_insanity

http://pastoral-insanity.deviantart.com/art/Girl-with-a-Lantern-41365151

donning_the_mask_v2_by_darkmaidenofsorrow

http://darkmaidenofsorrow.deviantart.com/art/Donning-the-Mask-v2-42523498

Again, clothing not quite right, and Jossa, my heroine doesn’t have red hair – but the atmosphere is spot-on.

And for the book for which I’m currently writing chapters and posting to goodreads.com, I did find a few. It’s surprisingly hard to find a ‘goddess-type’ girl with red hair in an ancient Roman stola who looks conflicted about her powers, not merely murderous! Also not topless, or completely nude, but for a bit of artfully draped silk. Arassa is not a girl to rule a kingdom while dropping bits of her clothing through the throne room!

douleur____by_kor_malkor

http://kor-malkor.deviantart.com/art/Douleur-52914177

I like this one, but I’m not sure why my heroine Arassa would be so intently staring into a vase. But she does look like she’s struggling with a weighty decision, and though the clothing is a bit skimpy, at least she’s not full-on topless like so many of the deviantart goddesses are!

cassandra_by_michaelo

http://michaelo.deviantart.com/art/Cassandra-34410069

Part of the action in Arassa’s story does happen on a ship, and while I do like her hair and the torn tunic,  I’m pretty sure that Arassa won’t be walking a plank.

goddess_of_the_sky_by_ragnarokfo

http://ragnarokfo.deviantart.com/art/Goddess-of-the-Sky-94967988

So that makes this last piece of illustration the winner to date. Good hair, good costume, suitable conflict and drama…it only lacks a battlefield below the cliff she’s standing on.

The Victoria Velvet Collection

Besides YouTube, I spend too much time on eBay, because I can find pretty much anything I’m looking for, plus stumble across a few thing that no one should be looking for.  I remember once I found a glass bottle someone was selling that had a preserved mouse corpse in the bottom….

But anyway, I found this new-to-me eBay seller called The Velvet Collection, and I just had to share a few pictures of the corsets she’s selling.  They are too, too fab!

http://stores.ebay.com/Victoria-Velvet-Collection

fairycorset

fairycorset2

It’s pink!  It has feathers!  I’m in love!

And this bottom one would be perfect for a steampunk something…

corset

corset2

Don’t Blame Me…

It won’t be long before I’ll be able to say “Don’t blame me, I voted for Baldwin”. Between McCain and Obama, I was hoping Obama would get it, simply so that people might finally come to understand that it wasn’t only Bush and the Republicans that have caused our country to get into such a mess. The difference between McCain and Obama is literally skin deep – there’s no discernible difference when it comes to their foreign policy, morals, or their financial plans for America. And once everyone sees for themselves that Obama’s “change” is only about power for himself, not power for the people, we’ll hopefully be able to get some real change started.

mouseland

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rHGWu1DTr5w

Let’s start with bringing all of our troops home from everywhere, closing our borders to everyone but legal immigrants, and denying all welfare and benefits to those still here illegally. Let’s restore the value of our money and stop allowing the federal government to tamper with aspects of our lives that they have no right to mess with. Let’s return to the Constitution as written, rather than being forced to live by the ‘interpretation’ of a handful of judges.

Let’s start with getting rid of illegal income taxes by dissolving the IRS, and let’s go back to being a prosperous nation! Did you know that none of the below taxes existed 100 years ago?

Accounts Receivable Tax

Building Permit Tax

CDL License Tax

Cigarette Tax

Dog License Tax

Corporate Income Tax

Federal Income Tax

Federal Unemployment Tax (FUTA)

Fishing License Tax

Food License Tax

Fuel Permit Tax

Gasoline Tax

Hunting License Tax

Inheritance Tax

Inventory Tax

IRS Interest Charges (tax on top of tax)

IRS Penalties (more tax on top of tax)

Liquor Tax

Luxury Tax

Marriage License Tax

Medicare Tax

Property Tax

Real Estate Tax

Service Charge Taxes

Social Security Tax

Road Usage Tax (truckers)

Sales Taxes

Recreational Vehicle Tax

School Tax

State Income Tax

State Unemployment Tax (SUTA)

Telephone Federal Excise Tax

Telephone Federal Universal Service Fee Tax

Telephone Federal, State, and Local Surcharge Tax

Telephone Recurring and Non-recurring Charges Tax

Telephone State and Local Tax

Telephone Usage Charge Tax

Utility Tax

Vehicle License Registration Tax

Vehicle Sales Tax

Watercraft Registration Tax

Well Permit Tax

Workers Compensation Tax

Not ONE of these taxes existed 100 years ago…and our nation was the most prosperous in the world. We had absolutely no national debt, we had the largest middle class in the world. So what went wrong?

We continued to elect men like Obama and McCain, that’s why. We elected men whose only solution to debt was to borrow more and give out ‘stimulus packages’. We elected men whose reaction to families living from paycheck to paycheck was to raise taxes and create ever more types of taxes. We elected men whose idea of foreign policy was to completely ignore the command of the Founding Fathers and continue to interfere with and police the governments of other countries. We elected men whose idea of solving the illegal immigration crisis was to issue amnesties and to send our border patrol to Iraq.

According to a recent poll 47% of Americans “was considering” voting third party, and just in my own hometown it seemed like around 47% of people I spoke to said that they wanted to vote third party, but they “didn’t want to waste their vote”, because “there’s no chance” that a third party candidate would win. How cowardly is that? History is packed with instances of events occurring that had “absolutely no chance” of succeeding…but they succeeded in spite of the odds, because men were brave (and desperate) enough to do what they believed right and necessary despite what anyone else said.

How desperate will America have to become before Americans will regain their courage and do what they believe to be right? I think, in the coming months, we’ll have a chance to find out.

http://www.campaignforliberty.com/

http://constitutionparty.org/

CAN A NEW PARTY WIN?

HISTORY SAYS “YES” – The Republican Party was itself a “third party” in 1854 when it was founded. in 1856 it was defeated with John C. Fremont as its first presidential candidate. Just four years later, however,the Republicans defeated the incumbent party, the Whigs, running a man named Abraham Lincoln. In a four-way race, Lincoln won the electoral college vote and the presidency despite not being on the ballot in nine states and receiving only 38% of the popular vote (by comparison, Bill Clinton was elected president in 1992 with 43% of the popular vote).

VOTERS SAY “YES” – Surveys show a steady increase in the public’s desire for a third party. A May 8, 2007 Rasmussen survey found that fifty-eight percent (58%) of Americans say it would be good for the U.S. to have a truly competitive third political party. An April 27,2006 Rasmussen research poll indicates that a third party presidential candidate emphasizing border security would tie a democrat candidate and defeat a republican. In a race with more than three candidates, one third of the vote can mean victory. Constitution Party candidates were elected to partisan offices for the first time in 2006, including Montana State Representative Rick Jore.

On the subject of good books…

Here’s how you know you’ve read a really, really good book: you don’t want to read anything else. It’s sort of like that scene you see occasionally in the movies…a girl gets her hand or cheek kissed by someone famous, and she’s so overcome that she says “I’ll never wash my hand/cheek again!”.

Well, I’ve been kissed by a really good book – it’s the Mistborn trilogy by Brandon Sanderson, and I just want him to hurry up and write another book already! I go through my bookshelf (which is overflowing with books I formerly wanted to read) and I don’t want to read any of them. I pick them up, glance at the back, flip through the pages, sigh over them, then go sew or watch Torchwood episodes. I think Brandon Sanderson may have ruined me. I’d be genuinely concerned, if I hadn’t had this exact reaction to Harry Potter. Or more recently, “Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell”. Or C.S. Lewis. Or Scott Lynch. Or… Okay, I think I’ve made my point; don’t get me started listing my literary loves or this post will be five blocks long.

Here’s my review of Hero of Ages, as posted on Amazon.com and Goodreads.com:

The first two books in the Mistborn trilogy were excellent, but it is only in the last one that Sanderson twists everything you know, and everything you *think* you know in such an unexpected, completely original direction that you’re left breathless. All the little clues were there, but he planted them so artfully that they aren’t even noticed until suddenly you realize the meaning *behind* what you’ve been reading! I’ve rarely read such a masterful plot.

I discovered this author by hearing that he had been chosen to finish Robert Jordan’s last Wheel of Time novel. I started reading Sanderson’s books because I wanted to assure myself that Jordan’s family had chosen a writer who could finish the saga successfully. Now I realize that writing Jordan’s last book is a waste of Sanderson’s talents; he should be writing his *own* books. I positively cannot wait to see what Sanderson’s next book, or series of books, will be. I also want to sit down and re-read the Mistborn trilogy over again from the beginning; the first two books will be an entirely different reading experience, now that I understand the truth.

Now go get yourself kissed by Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy!