Monthly Archives: February 2009

Thoughts on Arassa at 100,000 words

Those of you following this blog probably know that I am writing a pseudo-historical fantasy novel set in pseudo-Ancient Rome.  (All the pseudos are because I’m far too lazy to write a straight-up historical novel, and even if I weren’t, my brain’s too crazy not to invent things like magic systems that use ink written into flesh.)

But what I wanted to talk about today was the Priest.  You’ve met him, you people currently reading my chapters-in-progress on Goodreads; he’s the guy who showed up rather suddenly seeming as though he should have had more history than he did.  The reason for that is, he does.  He has lots of history, you just don’t know it.  And you should, and I’m sorry, but that’s the thing about reading this writer’s first drafts – you don’t get the whole story, because often I don’t have it all until toward the end.

I’ve known since the beginning that I wanted another viewpoint character besides Arassa.  It was suggested to me that I use Pullo, and I really thought I would….except that Pullo never really popped into my head that way.  He never seemed interested in talking to me, the mere author, he’s too busy saving that frustrating woman he’s in love with.  So I let him be, and was content with writing only from Arassa’s POV.

But about a month ago, I discovered there was someone new inside my imagination, who did want to talk to me.  His name’s Warre, and he’s a Priest of Minos, and Arassa’s sworn enemy.  He’s a little peeved with how I’ve been representing his homeland, and wants to set the record straight.  What’s more, he knows what happened in Minos when Pullo went there to reclaim the royal treasury, and he knows what’s really going on with the gods and Arassa’s new powers…he even knows what’s been happening with Sulili while she was in the Minosan camp.  He’s perfect as a viewpoint character, because he knows the exact opposite of what Arassa knows, and he believes exactly the opposite things.

But, unfortunately, we’re already in the homestretch of the first draft, and I don’t feel I can stop the story dead while I go back and rewrite all the previous chapters and insert his POV.  My readers (who are still waiting for that kiss), might send a few brutal little gods after me.

First drafts are strange that way, when you write completely out of the right side of your brain, like I do.  No outlines, only a few grand ideas for what’s coming a few scenes ahead of where I’m currently writing, and few more scribbled notes of cool dialogue, character names, and description.  If I’m really, really lucky, I know the ending before I begin, or at least have a feeling for it.  For Arassa, I had nothing but the beginning, and that scene where Pullo kneels to Arassa and cuts his hands on his sword as a sign of fealty.  I had nothing else. I didn’t know about the Arcane, the magic system, the secondary characters like Micah or Aenius, or what would happen at the end.  Luckily, everything’s been pulling together pretty well, and luckier still (since I’m writing chapter-by-chapter and posting each one as I finish), I haven’t written myself into any plot dead ends or serious technical difficulties.  It’s been great fun, if constantly a bit nerve-wracking, and the feedback and comments from my readers (besides being helpful in content) has really helped keep my nose to the grindstone.  I feel an obligation to those readers now, and I feel really bad if I can’t get a new chapter posted at least once a week.

The worse thing about writing chapter by chapter and inventing as I go, is that the story isn’t as cohesive as it should be.  Since I often only find out important plot points as I write them down, I can’t fore-shadow as well as I should, and I leave dangling sub-plots longer than I should because I don’t know all the answers yet myself.  The perfect example being Sulili’s sudden return from the Minosan camp.  She went, she returned, and there wasn’t much said about it, because everything that happened, happened between her and the priest.  Arassa doesn’t know, so the readers (at this point) don’t get to know either. If it’s any consolation, I don’t really know what happened yet myself.  The priest and I are going to have to sit down with a cup of tea and have that long talk, one of these days!

The good news, overall, is that I can feel the ending to Arassa’s story quite close now.  I’ve written over 100,000 words – longer than I thought this one was going to be.  Silly me.  I thought this one was going to be a short book, maybe even a novella.

If you’re reading this and don’t know who the heck “Arassa” is, and would like to, feel free to check out my novel in progress on goodreads.

Steampunk Cat

Here’s my latest sculpt, a miniature steampunk feline.  Cats, as you are probably aware, think it’s extremely unfair that those pesky (but tasty!) birds possess flight, and cats do not.  This ingenious aviator has decided to take matters into his own paws and restore justice to the universe.


I also love to get custom orders – all I need are photographs, and I can turn your own pet feline into a steampunk aviator!

Also check out my store for more hand-sculpted figures.

The House of Mouse

One of the very first stores I fell in love with was the House of Mouse.


The artist makes tiny dressed mice.  Most are pop culture icons from movies, books, and tv series.  Recognize the one above?  Harry Potter!

And here’s a little hippy/flower mouse:


And also from Harry Potter, here’s Lord Voldemouse.  The fact that he’s standing on a copy of a Harry Potter book is a nice touch!


Just recently, I discovered the mouse-artist’s blog.  It’s fascinating.  Not only does she make a living making a selling mice, she packs her blog full of helpful tips and hints for other etsy sellers.

I think I’m so attracted to these little mice because the first gift I ever received from a boy I liked was a little costumed mouse.  I was about nine.  The mouse was dressed like a cowboy.  I loved the mouse even after I recovered from the crush.  (Even though he was a cowboy mouse, he made an excellent stand-in for Reepicheep when I played at Narnia.)

Okay, I can’t resist showing off one mouse, and my current fav:


Chewbacca mouse! Gosh, he’s cute.


Ebay.  What did costumers do before there was ebay?

I’ve nearly completed my first steampunk outfit (the more dressy geisha/kimono one) and now I’m thinking ahead to the second.  I’m planning on attending the first annual Steamcon, and I’ve got to have at least two outfits, seeing as how it’s a three day affair!  (With a concert by Abney Park, yay!)

So I went onto ebay in the search of some required props for my second outfit (the airship pirate).  Here’s what I found, and won:

Boots, with buckles:


I’ll totally wear these in Real Life, too.  I love them.


Here’s what the seller (from Tibet!) had to say about his product:

This is a rare occident manner crystal pocket watch. It was made of crystal and copper. You can read the time from the pointer and set time from front. But it goes well, it was made of height quality crystal and copper. This is very rare the time. Because this is very difficult to do at the time. You can see the shape of very beautiful. In time it only use rich family, Please take a close look at my pictures. If you like pocket watch, please don’t miss the chance to get it! Enjoying your Bidding!

I love descriptions by people who don’t have English as a first language.  “You can see the shape of very beautiful…” It sounds like poetry.  Also, because I don’t think this seller has ever heard of steampunk, he didn’t use it as one of his tags in the auction.  Hence, even though it is packed with gears and extremely steamy, I got it for a steal, with no one bidding against me.


This is an ancient Chinese-style lock.  It’s functional.  I’m not sure how I’ll use it yet, but it’ll fit in a costume somewhere!


I like crossbows.  I like pistols.  I think if I steampunk this up a bit, it’ll fit perfectly with my persona.  Much cooler than a modified Nerf gun, because everyone seems to have one of those!  Also, at some point (maybe Halloween?) I’m going to do a vampire hunter costume, and this would so work for that as well.  Plus, it was only $9.  And it shoots, so I can have some fun with it, before I mod it up.

Can’t wait for my parcels to start arriving….

Doors and Dreams

I’m annoyed at my sleeping self right now.  I dreamed last night that I was tearing down a brick wall and found a fabulous old door that had been covered over and hidden for perhaps hundreds of years.  It looked something like this:


One of those really old wood and metal ones.  It was covered in torn cobwebs, and I knew that there quite possibly something eerie or wicked behind it.  Why else would you barricade a door with iron and then bury it behind a wall of bricks?

And while I was dreaming this, I knew I was dreaming it, yet the Othermind still chose to walk away and not open it.  Come on, Othermind!  Here was a chance for free adventure, of the sort not frequently found in our waking life, and you walk us away from it?

Please.  We might have been scared, had a zombie or monster jumped out at us in the dark, but we would have lived.  And now we’re having to live with our infernal curiousity about what might have lain behind it.  How is that better?

My Othermind does this sort of wimping out on me far too often when we’re asleep.

But on the more contented side of things, there’s definitely the nucleus of a story there….

Regency Zombies

Um…oh my gosh…what to say? A quarter of me thinks I should be outraged, the other three-quarters is insanely giggling, and then there’s the very small uncounted minority of me that is throwing her fist in the air and screaming “Finally! This is the best idea ever!”

What am I talking about?  This:


Written by a guy called Seth Grahame-Smith, it’s a novel that contains Jane Austen’s original text, with all-new scenes of zombie mayhem.  Before you jane-purists get too much up in arms, ready to slaughter the author much in the way that…oh…Elizabeth Bennet apparently slaughters zombies in this book, here’s a few words from the author that I yanked off his blog:

“For the record, I love Jane Austen.  She wrote comedies.  She was subversive and snarky and wore bonnets.  Good qualities, all.  And I love Pride and Prejudice.  I’d wager I read it cover-to-cover thirty times while writing P&P&Z.  It was the most fun I’ve ever had writing.  Seriously.”

So why would anyone who claims to like Austen write this clearly dispicable book of Austen-loathing?  From the author’s blog, again:

“Well, I’ll tell you why: because it’s funny.  Because the idea of uptight, early 19th Century aristocrats parading around in their finery, attending stuffy dances and taking tea in the midst of an all-out war with the undead struck me as really, really funny.  And because the thought of Elizabeth Bennet striking down hordes of zombies with a Katana sword struck me as awesome.  That’s the best answer I’ve got.”

I myself adore Jane Austen, always have and always will, but I think there’s room in my love for a few zombies.  And I have to say, I’m very curious how he managed to do it.  How does one take the original text, and work in zombies and Katana swords?  How does one even get the idea?

I think I like this Seth Grahame-Smith.

Dirt Under My Fingernails

I’m so happy, there was dirt under my fingernails today for the first time this year!

It was sunny, and I didn’t have to work this morning, so I took a stroll out in the garden and discovered this:


So then, of course, I had to get down on my knees and dig for a bit.  I love the feel of dirt on my hands – people keep buying me gloves for gifts (and I actually have bought a pair myself, pink ones!) but I never seem to want to wear them.  There’s just something about touching the soil and rumaging about in it barehanded that makes me happy.

Spring is finally coming!

Plus, I found out yesterday that my Renaissance Faire is happening this year.  Last year it was canceled due to the supreme ignorance and stupidity of a few local Commissioners, but this year we’re back, and we’re going to be bigger than ever.

Colonial Houses

I have just finished watching all eight hours of the PBS “reality” series Colonial House.  The basic premise is that a small group of modern people are selected to live for the summer as if they were really Mayflower colonialists.  They live in authentic houses, eat authentic food, and live and work as if their survival over the winter truly depends upon a good harvest.

I always watch these historial reality shows, hoping that someday I’ll see one done right, with participants who actually want to experience history as a tangible thing.  But I’m always somewhat disappointed, because the producers seem to to be intent on filming a soap opera in funny clothes.  Colonial House is a perfect example of the worse kind.

If you want your living history show to fail as a recreation, all you have to do is select participants who are guaranteed  not to get along.  People who have more interest in promoting various political, religious, and racial ideals than in experiencing history-as-it-really-was, wrinkles and all.  People like women who won’t wear a simple head cloth because it’s “demeaning”.  Families who are so anti-religion that they can’t bear to sit through a social sabbath, even though that’s clearly required according to the historical rules (no one was demanding they pray or participate, just be there – as observers).

There was a lot of moaning by the women about sexual inequality, because cooking every day was so ‘tedious’.  What did they think they’d be doing?  In colonial times, the women cooked – if you can’t stand the idea, why did you sign up?  And I never did figure out why they thought the men had it so much easier.  The men were spending  a full month, ten hours a day, felling, splitting, sawing, and planing logs to build a house with primitive hand tools.  Just watching them on a tv screen was exhausting.  The women’s response?  They had a mini revolt and drew up a plan whereby the men (in addition to their normal and less ‘tedious’ work) were required to cook for the women several times a week to let the women relax.  Relax?  If they wanted sexual equality, why weren’t they out there splitting logs while the men cooked?

Then there was the “lay preacher” who decided to pull several of the indentured servants off the work schedule so he could teach them Greek.  He said he “couldn’t imagine” a society existing without learning and culture.  In the first year of a new colony?  In a world where the lion’s share of new colonies failed and often starved to death over the winter?  Um, yeah.  I’m positive Greek lessons were way up at the top of the real colonialist’s  to-do list!

Finally there was the guy who left the colony early because he refused to be part of the recreation of a society that had “led to the institution of slavery”.   Here is another thing I object strongly to.  There was a limited narrative voice-over, but most of the so-called “history” was from the mouths of the participants themselves…most of whom held a very weak knowledge of the time period.  Most of what they said was wrong, partly wrong, completely wrong, or biased.  Such as: the slavery issue, or the episodes with the American Indians.  I refuse to be made to feel guilty for something that was absolutely not my fault, and no one else in America should feel guilty either, despite the best efforts of this program.  Absolutely, slavery is and was horrible, and so was what happened to the Native Americans, but no one alive today was involved. Every single country on Earth has been invaded and colonized by people who weren’t born there.  I’ve lost track of how often it happened to England alone.  This doesn’t make the suffering any less, but it puts it in a historical context.  It’s not the evil invading white colonialists, folks, it’s evil human nature, and it crosses all racial lines.  It’s the pattern of centuries, and at some point, you have to agree to let it go.  It happened, but none of us alive caused it, and none of us are to blame for it, and it needs to be released into history.

And slavery.  I’m so sick of hearing “slavery” and “America” be synonymous.  Slavery is and was horrendous, but it was occurring in nearly all cultures and countries for thousands of years before the Mayflower landed on American soil.  It was practiced in Africa 3,500 years ago, it was in England before being imported to America, and nothing the colonialists themselves did “caused” slavery.  Yes, black people owned other black people.  Yes, black former slaves in America even owned slaves.  Yes, white people have also owned other white people.  Black people have even owned white people. Historically, it’s not so much a racial issue as a economic one.  You would think, that having been a slave yourself, you wouldn’t be interested in enslaving another human, but that’s not how it works.  Greed wins a lot of moral arguments, and biased, agenda-promoting “reality history” shows like Colonial House do nothing to show either true reality or history.

The stated intent was to recreate the authentic life of an Mayflower colonialist, as it actually was, and in this, the program completely failed.  You can’t have a true depiction of history where every participant is completely unwilling to set aside their modern ideals, prejudices, and individual ways of thinking.  If you try, all you end up with is a confused mess.

And that’s what Colonial House was.  A mess.