Tag Archives: arassa

Pebbles, Cabbage, Writing, and Rice.

Whew.  It’s done, the last chapter of the first draft of Arassa is posted on Goodreads.  I feel so light and floaty!

Writing is like this: the first word on the first page is a single pebble that was so shiny you had to pick it up and put it in your pocket.  But with every word, every pebble that followed, your load got heavier and heavier, until all your pockets were filled and you were staggering.  You carried this story around with you all the time, not only when you were actually writing.  Those characters, those images, those words, those stones; they’re always with you, and they are an actual, physical weight.  So when you get throw that off, it feels giddy.  Suddenly you’re not touched by gravity, and you could do anything, be anyone.  Feelings like this must be why other people do illegal drugs.

stacked-stones-for-web

121,000 words, and that’s just the first draft.  It’ll get longer in the second, because I have an entirely new viewpoint character to add.  Revision though, is anxiety-free fun.  All of the stress of connecting with your characters, of learning to listen to them so deeply that you can feel your way through the story as it needs to be, not necessarily the way you wished you could write it is gone.  Both of you are free.  You can finger-paint with words now, you can dance in mud puddles, you can throw back your head and drink the rain, because, whatever you do or don’t do, the Story is already there, tied into paper and words with the substance and weight of 121,000 pieces of stone.  Now you can look on it in wonder and delight, and realize that it isn’t yours, and it never was; it possesses a soul of its own.

But however good it feels to lay down that weight, I know it won’t be long until I’m eager to pick up the first pebble of something new.  I need to write, and revision, like I said, isn’t really writing.  Soon I’ll start feeling irritable and a little blue, and I’ll wander around the house in a glowering funk for a few days wondering how it is that I don’t seem to want to do anything.  And then I’ll think: Ah.  It’s been weeks. An it’s time.

I pick up the pen, and an hour later, I’m back to being me.  It’s not because it’s my ‘creative outlet’ – I have dozens of those.  My costuming, my doll-making – all of those I do because I can.  Writing is what I do because I have to, because it’s a physical requirement, like eating or sleeping.  I might be able to survive without it, like I’d be able to survive if I ate only cabbage and rice, but you could hardly say I’d be living.

And huh.  Who knew?  I googled “cabbage rice” to see if I’d come up with a good image to end this with, and I discovered there’s an actual recipe for “Cabbage Rice”.

cabbagerice

Ingredients

2 cups cooked rice
1/2 cup finely cut cabbage
Salt to taste
2 tsp oil
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp bengalgram dal
1/2 tsp blackgram dal
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
Bit of asafoetida
1 tsp vangi bath powder
Few roasted cashews
Finely cut coriander leaves

In a microwave safe bowl, add the oil, mustard seeds, bengalgram dal and blackgram dal. Micro high for a minute. Now add the cabbage, mix well and micro high for a minute. Add a little water to it and cook covered on high for 3 to 4 minutes. Check if the cabbage is cooked well or else cook for another minute or so.

Now add turmeric powder, salt and vangi bath powder and micro high for 1 minute. See to it that it becomes dry.

Now add the cooked rice, roasted cashews, coriander leaves and mix well.

It calls for “Vangi Bath Powder”.  Hmmm.  They probably meant “Bhath Powder”, but I think I’ll still stick to writing!

Castle

I’m too busy working on wrapping up the last few chapters of my novel “Arassa” (nearly there, folks!) and yes…I admit it…playing a computer game – to write a really cool blog post.  So, instead, I’ll just post something really cool.

Involving Nathan Fillion.

His new show is premiering Monday, and while I wish it were another season of Firefly, I’ll settle for anything, just to see that marvelous smirky face in my living room again.  And really; the new show “Castle” looks pretty dang terrific.

Here’s a fantastic interview with Nathan on Jimmy Kimmel, where he speaks on his fans, his life as Captain Tightpants, and yes, Castle:

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.

http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/1090425

Cool things of Sundry Description

Okay…cool things…what have I got?

Well, thanks to my friend Bonnie (who I hope is feeling better!), I have this mindboggling youtube timewaster.  Yup, that’s my favorite sort of internet thingee!

BarackPaperScissors:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l2mcdS6ioo8

Go there.  You’ll love it.

I’m currently obsessed with genealogy, but even before I became obsessed with Ancestry.com, I wanted to know more about my Great-Grandmother Merritt.  I’ve always felt a sort of affinity with her, even though she died before I was born.  I’ve collected several family heirlooms that were hers.  But I was never able to find out more about the Merritt family’s origins – the only thing I had was the name of her father, and I could find out nothing about him.  It was deeply frustrating.

But then I was cruising ebay, and I found this guy:

http://myworld.ebay.com/boba216/

He offers 2 hours of professional genealogy research for a starting bid of $3.  You can’t beat that!  So I won my auction, and put him to work.  So far, he’s worked one hour, and traced the Merritts back five generations!  Very, very cool.  I may have to purchase some time later at his normal wage of $12 an hour and have him solve another problem that’s been bugging me.

In my own genealogy research, I’ve found I’m direct-blood related to King John I of England (he of Robin Hood infamy), King Duncan I of Scotland (he who was murdered by MacBeth), and Charlemagne.  I’ve also got a family line of Stuarts, and it turns out I’m some sort of cousin to Robert the Bruce (his daughter married my ancestor’s brother….)

What else is cool?  Oh yes.  I’m past the 100,000 word mark in Arassa!  Now I can only hope I reach the The End soon.  I don’t want to write another massive book after the last one I wrote (which was so huge I broke it up into two novels, and they were still on the longish side!)  This is the stage where I’m using lots and lots of pure determination and stubbornness.  Arassa is still fun to write, but it’s so tempting to put it aside and work on something new and different.  The Othermind isn’t helping, either, because lately I’ve been positively bombarded with images and ideas for the next book.  They sneak up on me, these ideas.  It’s a good sign that I’m reaching the end of Arassa, though.

This costumer’s blog is awesome (and cool).

http://theartofclothes.blogspot.com/

She’s one of the people I want to grow up to be.  I’m so bloody envious of her hand-sewn eyelets on her new corset-in-the-making, that I am probably going to attempt some on my new corset.  And look!  I’ve got the boning for that corset!

4e04_1_b

It’s basically 5mm lengths of wooden sticks.  Technically, they’re used for basket-making, but if you want to make a really, really authentic corset…well, they didn’t have plastic boning in the 1700s, did they?

I’ll leave you with this image of two indian runner ducks…

250px-runner-ducks

….because let’s face it.

Ducks are basically the coolest things on the planet.

A Little Writing, a Little Costuming

It’s a funny thing, sometimes, when you meet a character for the first time in a story you’re writing.

I just finished posting a new chapter of my book-in-progress on Goodreads, and it was a fun chapter to write.  Not only did Pullo and Arassa get to fight (I know, I know, everyone’s waiting for that first kiss – it’s coming!), but I also got to meet my Chracian Queen.  She’s been briefly mentioned a few times, in other chapters, but this is the first time she appeared in the ink.

And she’s so completely different than who I thought she was.  I wasn’t even sure, the first few times I mentioned her in the story, that she was even going to be more than simply a character for other characters to talk about, and I envisioned her as this quiet little woman, one who doesn’t care if other people speak her story for her.  I even gave her (as a first-draft name) the name of a different woman, in a different book of mine – the name of someone who actually is a quiet little woman.

So imagine my delight in being surprised.  My main character, Arassa, might not be pleased to meet Cele, but I am.

And because that wasn’t much of post (I have Christmas gifts to wrap), I’m including these pictures.  They have zero to do with Arassa, but they’re so exceedingly cool.

For anyone who likes 18th century costuming, that is.

gilet-jacket

Look at the embroidery on that.  So gorgeous!

grueneskleidoriginal_480

A close-up of the embroidery:

l000

For even more pics, see the “Inspiration!” page on my costuming website:

http://www.freewebs.com/dragonflydesignsbyalisa/

The Music of Writing Books

I have officially reached 200 plays of the theme song from HBO’s Rome. The count for the rest of the songs gradually lessens as it reaches the bottom of the playlist, because while I always play song number one (the theme song), I don’t always make it to the last. If 200 plays of one song seems excessive, let me explain.

Every book I write has its own soundtrack, a particular CD that I play over and over while I work on that particular book. My first completed novel was about a serial killer and I listened to Tom Petty’s Greatest Hits. “Free Fallin'” especially was my killer’s song. I’d pick up my pen, hit play, and by the time that song was into the first chorus, I’d be sucked so deep into my writing that I wasn’t even consciously hearing the music. Years later, hearing that song pulls me right back. I have no idea how many plays of that CD I listened to (this was before I had an Ipod keeping count for me), but it had to be an impressive number.

For the first book of my YA duo, I listened to the soundtrack from one of the Harry Potter films…leading to a curious split in my brain. Now when I hear that music, I don’t know which world to be sucked into – Hogwarts or the Tower, and it ends up being an odd mixture of both.

The second book of the YA duo, I was obsessed with Blackmore’s Night, specifically their album called “Ghost of a Rose”. Great stuff, now irrevocably tied to masks and a man called Dark, not renaissance faires as it is meant to be.

Having the same music playing over and over while I write is not nearly so maddening as it might seem, since the only time I really “hear” it is when I’m going under into the story or surfacing back out of it. And it serves an important purpose, because when I turn that particular music on, the creative part of my mind (the Othermind) is alerted that it’s now time to come out and play. Whether it bloody well wants to or not. And months after I’ve written the first draft and it’s time to begin revising the story, playing that same music again helps me get back into the story, back into the mood and feeling of the characters with much greater ease.

Plus, if I’ve heard the CD 200 times, who really wants to pay close attention to it? If I put on new music, I might be more interested in listening to the lyrics and tapping my foot to the beat rather than getting down to the writing. I might, I say, but of course I mean I would. The Othermind loves to be distracted by anything new, which is, I think, why so many writers tend to always use the same paper, the same pen, the same desk, the same little funny collection of frogs lined up on top of their monitor. Okay, so the frogs might be just me.

But 200 plays of Rome! I think that’s kind of cool, even though I have to admit that when I closed Word this evening, it was actually only 198. I clicked play 2 more times, just to make it a nice even number, thus maximizing the coolness.

84,000 Words!

This makes me insanely pleased and relieved, because now, whatever happens, “Arassa” (my book-in-progress) is a book. I could write The End tonight, and it would possess a minimum number of words, which I’ve been told is around 75,000.

When I first begin writing words on a blank page, I usually know only the beginning scene, a couple of events in the middle, and if I’m extraordinarily lucky, I know the ending. So there’s always a bit of nervousness until I pass that magic number, since I’m never entirely sure what I have. Is it an absurdly long short story? Is it a novella? Is it…dare I believe…is it a novel? I’m still awed by my ability to find all those words – even after writing four and half books.

For Arassa, I’m still writing blind. I know one major climatic point that will be happening soon, and I have a list of Things That Need To Happen, but I don’t yet know the ending itself. My way of writing feels like walking through a labyrinth beneath a mountain. There are many, many passages I could walk through, and many, many doors I could open. But someone has been there before me, and they’ve wound a spool of the most slender silk thread through all the passages and doors where the true story goes. Imagine that: alone in the darkness, surrounded by stone and echoes, and my only true guide is the barely-felt, hardly-believed in thread of silk between my fingers. I’m always afraid it will break, and leave me stranded and the story forever lost. First drafts are nerve-wracking.

As I walk forward, sometimes the thread slips from between my fingers without me noticing, and when I turn a corner I find myself facing a solid wall. Then I must creep backward, throwing away the wrong words not matter how much I love them, until I reach out and find the thread back within my touch. I have to trust the string; I have to trust that it took me under the mountain, and that it will lead out of again. I have to trust the string when I find myself writing scenes I don’t yet understand, and meeting characters I didn’t plan for. These are the best and most frightening times.

It feels supernatural, like the Story came before I created it, like it existed before it stumbled out of my hands. It feels like the characters have been flitting about, whispering into people’s heads, trying to make themselves heard. Most people shut them out. They’re too busy trying to make sense of their own lives, too busy thinking about Desperate Housewives, or what they’re going to do on the weekend. They’re too busy paying bills, pulling grey hairs, or worrying about the new sound their car is making. They’re thinking about their boss, or the fact that the cat might be gagging on the oriental rug (he was looking ill right before they left for work). They drown out all the voices but their own, and they never realize how lonely they are.

But now and then, the character whispers into the ear of a writer, and she manages to whisper louder than all the other whisperings of all the other whispering characters. She tells her story, and the writer takes dictation. A writer prays for the days when it feels like dictation, when the writing’s so good and so perfect as that. When it’s so much fun.

It’s not always like that, of course, sometimes the whispers get too faint, and the writer has to strain to hear; each word is a labor. Sometimes the writer doesn’t trust the character to know her own story, and starts muddling around with it, and ruins something pure.

But sometimes, all the writer has to do is be the pen.