Thursday, August 30, 2007

Back from the zoo!

This is a lovely snow leopard.

I went to the zoo today (Wednesday). It was mostly great, and I came back with some wonderful pictures, as usual. I am so looking forward to buying the new camera, though. I love the pictures from this one, but the new version of the camera has some useful new features that I really could have used today. Now that I have a job, I think I'll have it in a couple months, providing we don't have any new major problems!

I also could have used a personal shield wall to avoid the running and screaming three to five year olds who were everywhere. One came running straight at my tripod, obviously intending to grab it. I yanked the tripod and case out of the way barely in time, and badly twisted my leg doing it. It's hurt every since.

And the mother glared. That's the part I don't get. Apparently, apologizing for your kid being a little too wild is far worse than being rude.

I had to sit down for more than half an hour before I could put weight on my leg again, and I hobbled through the next four hours with a lot of muttering and ill-thoughts about rude people and untrained kids. I think it worked. I wasn't bothered much by anyone after that!

I came home to a ton of work, and a very busy five days ahead, which includes the DAZ newsletter, Vision, updating the FM site for the new month, the Labor of Love/Unfinished Business Dare, and company from out of town. I am not taking part in the dare unless something changes. Vision may be a day or two late, too.

But I got good pictures, so all isn't lost. I just hope I can get a little more work done here tonight and then I'll limp off to bed for a few hours. Soon, I hope.

Writing is going well enough, except for today. I was counting on doing the dare to bring my numbers up for the month and the year, but I just don't see how I could fit it in. In fact, I suspect my writing totals are going to take a bad drop instead. It's just been one of those years where I can't seem to get a straight run at writing. I don't know what I'm going to do for NaNo this year!

And that's it. Time to get back to work on other things so I can crawl off to bed and probably sleep all day tomorrow!
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Friday, August 24, 2007

Friday Snippet

Almost didn't get my material posted tonight. I am running way behind on work things, but I wanted to get this next piece of Paid in Gold and Blood up here, since people seem to be enjoying the story.

Oh and the other picture below this -- that was an accident. It should have gone in the Picture a Day blog. I didn't even notice until I came to see what I should do for the next snippet.

I hope you like this next bit.

(A little bit of explanation, I think, is in order. Katashan is staying at the fort, which is on the cliff above the sea. The city is below the fort on the cliffs. Cork is a guard assigned to help him out, and right now he's helping Katashan avoid the local Lord, who is not really happy. They've gone down through the halls of the fort to a lower level where he found a well and garden.)


Cork listened for a moment at the gate, and then carefully slipped out on to the walkway. The people outside laughed when he shooed the chickens back in, but didn't seem to take any other notice.

"Now, sir. Quick, and to the right."

Katashan obeyed, bowing his head, and moving as fast as he could though the gate and along the stone pathway. It seemed narrow, and then realized there would be no need for anything wider. No horses down here, Katashan realized. No wagons. Just people walking.

Sounds echoed oddly, and he could smell fish everywhere. He walked along, close to the stone wall on the right, which he took at first to be nothing more than the smooth surface of the cliff.

Then he saw the carved relief of waves and fish.

He looked up.

The sight stopped him, even now in the midst of danger that could take his life if he wasn't careful. He could do nothing but stare.

A city of red, beige and white stone rose all around him, the buildings carved out of a chasm in the cliff. To the left, buildings of only a story or two had been carved from the rock -- carved completely through in many places, because he could see to the sky and ocean through openings. To his right stood buildings so tall he had to crane his neck to see the tops. The locals had carved them into the cliff wall, and around the doorways stood pillars of multicolored stone, topped with gargoyles, eagles and dragons. Statues of men, gods and creatures seemed to grow from the building walls, carved from the world around them. He could not take it all in --

"No time for gawking, sir," Cork said, taking hold of his arm and hurrying him along.

"I have never -- I am -- words fail me."

"Yes, sir. I've heard that before. I admit, even for a local boy, it still takes the breath away -- but we haven't the time to play tourist. This way, sir."

"Get away from me."

"I don't think so," Cork answered with a bright smile. "We'll walk along like a couple old pals, heading for the tavern. You can look around to your heart's content, and I'll just steer us along."

Katashan stopped arguing because he did, truly, want to see, and with a glance around, he could tell no one seemed to pay them any attention. He ran his hand over the edge of one pediment covered in near perfect stone roses. "It's magnificent."

Cork looked at the wall, and then at the buildings to the left. He smiled. "Yes, it is, sir. People in the capital say this is a city built by the gods themselves. It might be that old. There's another level further down the cliff side, a single row mostly of suites and apartments. Up here are the markets, the shops, the taverns, and the temples. City government has buildings here, as well. That building there on the right -- the one with the two hawks carved over the door frame -- that's the Hall of Justice, where the city council meets and settles disputes and gives judgments in trials. The building goes far back into the cliff, a cubbyhole of offices and they say you can get lost in there. That people never come back."

"You live in a dangerous world, where people are forever disappearing into mountains, one way or another."

He laughed. "Yes, sir, you're right. I'd say it's safer to be a ship's man than work for the government -- soldier or clerk -- but, of course, we lose ships now and again as well. I've lost more relatives to the sea than to the mountains." He looked toward the ocean, visible through the windows of the stone-carved building to the left. Cork waved toward it. "That's the Salt House. Always a busy place there, so keep your head down and we'll hurry by. And the next door down, that's the Fish House. You go there if you want to arrange the hire of a ship for the sake of the catch. Always busy as well --"

"Magic," Katashan said and almost lifted his hand. He stopped before Cork did more than draw a quick, hissing breath. "There's magic everywhere."

"Of course there is, sir. How else could they keep a place like this dry and livable, so close to the sea? Do watch yourself, sir. Common people don't have magic here, so they don't take notice of it. But we have a priesthood, and they keep their eyes on such things, and every generation or so a true mage comes in and renews the spells, though that's not well known either. The locals, they just wouldn't understand, since they've no magic of their own and mistrust it."

"I understand. The common people at home don't have magic either --" He stopped himself with a silent curse.

Cork gave him a look that showed no surprise, but rather a little nod of confirmation of something he had obviously already considered.

Katashan quickly steered the conversation away from that dangerous ground, though. He wasn't ready to answer questions about himself and why he was not one of those common people.

"What is that building with the dolphins carved all over it?" he asked, pointing toward an area with dolphins carved around a wide opening. Two women were entering, laughter echoing back out from the cavernous interior.

"That's the baths, sir."

"Baths. Really? How delightful."

"Oh yes, sir. We're very nearly civilized here. There's a hot spring inside, and cool water from the same source as the wells. It's a lovely way to spend a free afternoon."

"Do you see any sea people here, Cork?"

"Once every ten years or so, they come in to trade, mostly bringing their lovely pearl work and trading for good nets and rope. Twenty or so will come in at once, and then swim out and another twenty will come in. We're the only city on the entire coast that they visit. The gods alone know why. If their visits were more often, or at least predictable, we'd be famous and rich for it."

"Is that what you want for this city? For it to be famous and rich and filled with people?"

Cork gave him another startled look. "When you put it like that -- no, I guess not. How odd. I always thought... well never mind."

Katashan nodded. "I've lived in cities famous for one reason or another. I'm looking for somewhere less hectic now. But looking around, I would think it must be hard to get a shop here," Katashan said, deliberately turning the conversation aside again. "Limited space, yes?"

"Yes. Many shopkeepers start up on the bluff, by the fortress, and apply for a cliff shop with the council. The list is long, but shops do close here every year for one reason or another. And some businesses join forces and share a space. Usually the wait's no more than three years."

That sounded like a frighteningly long time to Katashan, although he wasn't entirely certain why. Perhaps he only wanted to fit in here -- or somewhere -- and feel as though he had found a home. Maybe he was ready for the journey to end and to find peace again. He pushed that thought away, though, with the reminder of things going on here that didn't promise much peace in the near future.

"And there, at the branching, is the temple of Peralin, the patron god of Salbay."

Katashan looked up with a start and found the path parted before him with a narrow crevice to the right, a wider one to the left. In the center stood an ornate building that put the others to shame for the amount of detail carved into the surface. Stairs lead upward, narrow at the bottom, widening before two broad doors of silver.

Between the doors stood a statue. Not one carved of the local red and pale stone, but rather jet black: A man cloaked, sitting upon his horse with the animal's head high. Katashan felt his heart pound and his breath catch. He stopped and he stared, aware that Cork tried to urge him on. He could not, for the moment, move.

"What -- the statue --" he said, fighting for words in a language the man would understand.

"Ah, yes. No one knows how they got so large a statue down here, either. Myth says he rode in all by himself, and took sentry there. And that, on the day we see him riding elsewhere, we'll be in a damned lot of... damned... lot... oh hell, sir. No. Say it's not true."

"We shared a hay shed the night before I arrived. The horse is called Night."

"So it is, sir. Yes. It is. Gods all. What does it mean?"

"It means, I suppose, that we are all in a damn lot of trouble."
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Thursday, August 23, 2007

High River
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Long day leading to nowhere

How did this day get so completely away from me? It's amazing. I was working away on stuff, and next thing I know, it's midnight. I fought off a weather-related headache. I think I must have just gone into a trance or something for part of the day, because the hours disappeared. I'll blame it on the weather.

Which, in the end, at least gave me this lovely rainbow, so it wasn't all bad. Sure, we're under a flash flood watch, but we have been for days now. And yes, we're going to have yet more thunderstorms tomorrow. It's been an odd summer for weather.

I am still pretty much working to my list. I am a bit behind today, but more caught up than I have been in a couple days. I was without Internet for about 30 hours early this week. I had no idea I could get so far behind in one day without the ability to do my work online. Amazing.

Writing is taking some odd turns lately. That's good, of course. I'm enjoying a couple really strange projects right now. One of them would almost have to be called a Journal of Questions to myself. It's all because of the Great Books of the Western World series. I started reading the very short intro book and by the time I got through the preface I was convinced that it's time to read them all. This is no small undertaking. We're talking maybe a ten year project. But it's either that or admit that I just have them for show. I have NEVER owned books just for show. These won't be the first.

And I want to learn things. I'm convinced that the more a person learns, the better she writes -- not to mention the better she understands the world. I'm amazed by the stuff in Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia. I've read nine volumes so far, and I'm heading into the last four (the mammal section) in the next few days. The realization that I am going to be done with it in the next few months started me looking toward the next big reading project.

In writing, I'm working mostly on A Plague of Rats and the final edits for the last Dark Staff book. Oh, and on Vision, of course. Lots of stuff to get done there. And working on the background material for Draw the Line. I'm sure there are a few other projects in there as well. It would be good if I could really concentrate on any one of them, of course, but bouncing around has been fun for me in the past. Eventually one of the projects will leap up and take over my brain and the others will wait their turn again. I am just over 39,000 words on A Plague of Rats, which means it is probably coming close to that break point where I suddenly want to see it to the end.

And I want to finish the edits on the Dark Staff book. The idea of being done with all eight volumes is kind of heady. I think I have about sixty pages left to edit is all. What a great weight that will lift!

Okay, that's it. I'm going to post this and move on to the next thing on my list!

At least with the list I can fool myself into thinking I'm making progress. (grin)
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Friday, August 17, 2007

Friday Snippets

Okay, just a quick note before I have to run!

I didn't think I'd have a chance to do this one this week because I've been so busy, but I've rushed it in between dinner and more work. This is more from Paid in Gold and Blood. Katashan has taken the body to the closest city, and there at the military keep he learned that this woman was the daughter of the local lord, and missing for some time. Katashan is the guest of the local commander until things are straightened out.
This, of course, means things are going to get much worse.

Katashan dreamt about his wife.

Maybe it was the bed. He had not slept in a real bed in years -- in fact, not since that last night with her.

He hadn't thought of her so clearly since the day he came back to find their home destroyed, and she and the girls dead. He had stopped dreaming about a lot of things that day.

He had spent a little time with his parents, but they'd already had a strained relationship, and his father's suggestion that he remarry -- almost an order -- had led to words that probably should never have been said.

He'd left ten days later. He would not go back. . .

But it wasn't his father's coldness that he dreamt about this time. Tonight, he saw Ava before him, laughing and bright. She had fastened her dark hair up with golden rods and lined her eyes in dark, royal blue. She laughed when he reached for her hand, and pulled away with a playful smile. She paused again, and lifted her hand out to him....

But he knew, even in the dream, that he would never touch her again. And yet he still reached, as though he might find a way past the barrier of death. He wanted to have her back again, with an ache that made his heart pound. Wanted --

She took his hand.

Cold. Ice cold.

Katashan awoke with a cry of surprise and found a woman holding his hand. He recognized her: Sherina, who was long since dead at that high pass. She floated on a soft breeze from the open window, her body and arms unnaturally long. Her golden hair, still glittered with ice, looked hardly brighter than the pale, snow-white skin. Clouds of mist hung around her, but she wore no other covering.

He tried to yank his hand back, but her fingers, though they looked no more substantial than clouds, gripped tighter. Her touch felt like the grasp of winter around his wrist.

"Be gone!" he shouted, his voice harsh and too loud. She reached for his other wrist, but he moved faster, grabbing at the blade still hanging by the chain around his neck. Thank the Gods he had the sense enough not to remove it when he went to bed.

She snarled, her thin blue lips pulling back to show pearl white teeth and a frozen black tongue. When he started to pull free again, she slapped at him with her free hand and the icy touch nearly numbed his arm. Only the ritual blade in his hand saved him. He clenched his fingers around it and drew blood -- and that alone sent her scuttling back, keening loudly.

He started to stand, shaking his hand to try and clear the ache of cold from the skin and bones. Seeing him show a sign of weakness, she swept forward again, but he lifted his bleeding hand, almost spattering her this time. She drew back in haste with a yowl of anger.

The door opened, spilling torchlight from the hall into the room. The guard stepped in and stopped, his breath catching as he choked on whatever words he had meant to say.

"Get back!" Katashan warned.

"Gods -- Gods!" he finally cried out.

"Close the door!" Katashan leapt from the bed, drawing Sherina's brief attention from the guard. He looked petrified, poor boy. Not the one who had brought him here, so it was past midnight. "Get out and close the door, now!"

He was a good soldier, at least -- he stepped back to obey the order, though never taking his eyes from the enemy. Sherina spun in the air, gauze of light and almost substance, and then swept down on the boy, settling around him like a fine mist.

The guard slumped back against the door and slid down, a glaze of white over his form, a film through which he gasped, his eyes rolling up as she drew power from him.

As she drew the life from him.


Katashan threw himself at the two, his bloody hand held up while he chanted and focused the magic into his fingers. Until he felt the warmth growing in his hand he hadn't realized what he'd instinctively called: fire. She had become a being of ice, a demon of the cold and she drew away from the flame he held out toward her as a lady shied away from a mud puddle.

The guard had turned pale white, his lips blue -- but his chest moved, though erratically. Katashan had paused only long enough to be certain he still lived and then spun back to the malevolent spirit drifting in the center of the room, red tinged eyes glaring at him.

He lifted his hand, calling up more fire to rest upon his palm. She backed away, mouth drawn back with a sound like a hissing wind.

"Be gone, Sherina --" He lifted his hand prepared to throw the flame into her icy heart.

Before he could finish the spell, she screamed and retreated out through the night-filled window. Wind shook the room and rain poured in, some of it turning to ice in her wake. He heard the sound of people and animals suddenly awake everywhere. Lightening rent the sky as a gale hit, blowing through the room with a new sweep of torrential rain. He regretted seeing the bed almost immediately soaked.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Happy to be here

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Okay, so why is the picture not showing up?

Well, let's just pretend I know what I'm doing anyway.

In a few days, I will no longer have my email address. This is going to be odd after all these years. I am primarily going back to my one, or which is the wisest one to use, of course, since it will stay no matter if I move, or change providers again.

I hope the new provider turns out to be good. Oh, and I'm going to have basic cable again, which means I can at least watch the Weather Channel again. Not that I'll have time to, but I could.

I've decided that I've read enough negative stuff about writing and authors lately. No one pretends like this is a perfect business, or that places like Forward Motion are going to be full of perfect authors, just waiting to hear the words of wisdom and apply them. It would be great if it worked that way, but it doesn't. Some are better at listening than others. Some will always have their own opinions and if Shakespeare himself appeared to give them advice, they'd argue with him. I guess I've become immune to some of that attitude after so many years at Forward Motion. I know there are those you'll never reach, but there are others who are happy with advice, even if it doesn't always work for them. And it won't always work, of course.

There are those who are going to find the right publisher and fit right in without any problems. Others will have trouble of one kind or another. It's going to happen. It's good to know and be prepared, but don't let it affect your love of writing. Be prepared for potential problems, but don't let the thought of them overwhelm you.

I post often about things that aren't working in the publishing side as well. Afterwards, though, I thought about why I am still at Forward Motion and DTF -- and Vision, for that matter -- and realized it's because there are those who are problems, but there are far more people who are not. It's just that the problem people are always the loudest and going to take the most of your time. If you could just do away with that time sink and devote your energy toward the people who are really looking for answers (rather than waiting to be told they're already perfect), but like everything else in life, you have to take the bad with the good. It even makes you appreciate the good more.

Publishing is never going to be quite the dream that most of you imagine. It's still great.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Friday Snippet

I am about to leave the house for several hours. I wanted to get this posted before I left, so of course Picasa was acting odd, so I have to do the picture by hand, and I'm in too much of a hurry to do more than drop it in and hope for the best.

This is a scene a little later in Paid in Gold and Blood. I have snipped out part of the middle because without the other material leading up to it, it just wouldn't make much sense. And besides, it got very long. (grin)

The group has reached a trail-side inn, just as night falls. Tyren and his men are not happy and won't have Katashan and the body inside with them. He's going to spend the night in the shed. The others have gone inside and left him to take care of the body and getting the gate closed.

A moment later the sound centered on the trail still leading down to the coast, and within a heartbeat a ghostly figure of horse and man came into view. The rider sat wrapped in a black hooded cloak, the same color as the horse he rode, so that they looked like a single piece of the night taking shape in the mist-filled darkness. Katashan took a step toward the gate again, ready to slam it shut.

"Ah, I made it!" the stranger said as he threw back is hood -- dark hair, pale face. That didn't much help Katashan's feeling that he ought to be retreating to safety. The man vaulted off his remarkably calm horse and looked around, his eyes settling on the travois and the ice-packed blankets.

"She's dead," Katashan said.

"I would certainly hope so at this point."

Someone, at least, with a sense of humor. Young, too, but he didn't seem to have the bravado of most young men Katashan had known at home.

"They're not going to let you in, I'm afraid," Katashan said, waving a hand toward the door of the building. Raucous laughter and shouts irrupted from the inside, and a sound that might have been a body hitting the floor. Maybe he shouldn't complain so much about being left outside. "They're spooked by the fog and the body."

"Ah. I see." The stranger looked out at the fog and made a little dismissive gesture. "They're not from around here, then. We have such fogs quite often. But then, from your accent, you aren't from here, either. Are you a Northerner? Tarisian?"

"Yes. You are a local?"

"Mostly," he said, and flashed a smile. "I have traveled quite a bit in the service of my lady. Shall we go inside? There are bandits in the area, and the weather is cool besides. I think there is a shed we can share? Providing, of course, there is room for the three of us."

"This does not bother you?" Katashan said, indicating the body.

The smile left his face. He looked older. "It bothers me a great deal. But I don't want to stand out here in the night and invite the sort of people these walls were made to protect us from. Shall we go in?"

(Snip of an introduction, various things, and Peralin taking the body to the shed.)

Katashan kept an eye on Peralin until the man had slipped into the shed. Then he hurried to the gate, pulling out his blade and slicing his finger once more. He made quick dabs of blood on the inside of the bar, out of notice, and whispered an incantation of power that ran from it to the gate to the wall as he put the bar in place. Fingers of fog that had started to work their way through the crevices and over the top of the wall retreated even before he finished.

When he looked back, Peralin stood at the doorway to the shed. Katashan unobtrusively pushed the blade away again and started herding the donkey's into a fenced corner of the enclosure. The black horse -- Night -- stood like a guard outside the shed, and Katashan thought anyone -- or maybe anything -- would be leery of going up against such a formidable animal

Peralin pulled his cloak tighter as Katashan grabbed his pack from by the door and approached the shed. He looked past toward the wall with a frown, and for a moment Katashan thought he might know about the magic. If so, he said nothing.

"The night is going to be cold," Peralin said as he stepped aside. "Let's get settled, share a little dinner perhaps?"

"I have very little left in food."

"And I'm over-stocked for the short journey I'm going to make."

"You are very kind."

"And glad for the company," he said as Katashan came to the shed. Peralin had already set a little candle in place, dispelling some of the darkness. It didn't seem like such a bad place. "All in all, I thought at best I would be spending the night alone, since I had no intention of sleeping with a group of snoring, bad-tempered men. You seem the far better choice."

"And my companion?" Katashan said, nodding to the body that was settled against the wall.

"I doubt she snores."

Katashan looked back at him and weighed many things -- but mostly he thought about the danger he might be putting this man in.

"Perhaps you should know something more before you make a final decision about staying here," he said and leaned against the wall inside the building. "I found her, bound in ropes and chains, and with a knife through her heart, at the base of a Verina Guardian. I believe she had been sacrificed, and I can't guarantee that she is such safe company as she appears."

The man's dark eyes didn't flicker, though he remained still for a half dozen heartbeats. Then he shrugged. "I'm glad you told me. It makes things much easier. Here, have some wine. I think you need it."

He reached within his cloak and pulled out a decanter and two crystal goblets.

He could not have been carrying them there.

Katashan would have sensed magic had he used it. He knew of no spell strong enough to hide such power from him. This stranger had no magic. But he did have power -- and there was only one other way --

"Gods protect me," Katashan said, lucky he had his back to the wall. Peralin stood in the doorway, and he had no chance to make it out of the shed and the stables before -- whatever this was caught him.

"We shall share wine," Peralin said, putting the goblets on a ledge by the door. He poured the liquid; it sparkled as it fell, glittering in the candle light. A scent, rich and heady, filled the tiny area and left Katashan half dizzy. When Peralin held a goblet out, Katashan shook his head and pressed harder against the wall, his hand reaching for his blade.

"Don't," Peralin warned and stilled Katashan in his movement. "Take the wine."

"Who -- what are you?"

"A guard," he said with a deceptive little shrug. "You need one tonight, don't you?"

"I might need one from you," Katashan said.

"Not everything of the dark and the night is your enemy."

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Another day. . . .

I'm not in a good mood tonight. I'm just not and there isn't anything much that can be done about it. I've had a somewhat miserable day, my arm hurts, making it hard to write and do any other kind of work, and my list of things to get done tonight is not getting any shorter. A program has crashed twice for no reason, and my brain is not connecting with the actual work I need to do.

I hate nights like these. I need to get a great many things done before I can even pretend like I got work finished. Snarl.

So what am I doing here?

Trying to work out why I'm in a bad mood and get over it. Yes, my arm and neck hurts. It's done that before, and I manage to get over it. The weather is lousy -- damp, humid, and uncomfortable, but not miserable like it could be. We are not having the excessive heat of the east. In fact, it's been just the opposite, and cooler and damp for days. We've had thunderstorms every day for the last three or four days, but they've been mostly noise and not even a lot of rain. It's just humid and damp and uncomfortable. I mentioned that, right?

So bad and good there on all counts, even if the bad is at the top of the list at the moment.

Writing is not going as well as I would like. That's kind of an understatement, but we'll leave it there for the moment. I'm sure it will pick up soon. I have ideas, and if I can just get some of the rest of my life in order again, I'm sure they'll all come leaping up and drive me nuts. One at a time, please!

Am I going to be able to take part in Labor of Love/Unfinished Business this year? I don't know. At this point I'm not even certain about NaNo.

I got some nice photos today, though, like the flower with raindrops one I'm using here. The lighting, with the nice grey overcast day, was perfect. I really enjoyed it for that part, at least!

I give up. I really don't have anything interesting to say!
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Friday, August 03, 2007

Friday Snippet

I'm busy. I've mentioned that, right? I work from the time I get up until I go to bed, and very little of it is writing just now. That's going to change because we all know I'll go crazy if it keeps up.

But, overall, things are going well enough.

So this week I'm turning to another novel. This one is very nearly ready to go out but it falls a little short at almost 96k, and Baen (the place I had intended to send it) wants at least 100k. I can add another 4k, and probably not with a lot of trouble... if I can just get the time.

So here you go with the first snippet. I'll probably stick with this novel for a few weeks!

NOTICE: This material is copyrighted. Do not quote or repost. Thank you.

From: Paid in Gold and Blood, Chapter 1 (not the very beginning, though)

Katashan had hurried ahead of the caravan to do more than gape at the welcoming sight of the Inner Sea. The caravan had followed the ancient Iron Road, a trail that for centuries had linked the resource rich northern lands with the grain rich southern coast. Stone-carved Verina Guardians -- waist high kneeling images of the goddess with her hands held in a bowl shape before her -- had stood sentinel at every important locality, from crossroads to mountain passes. The statues represented an old religion, in abeyance in the south, since the old empire had long since dwindled away. There had been a time, though, when the land of Taris ruled from the northern shores all the way to the Inner Sea.

Katashan hadn't realized he could feel any affection for the Gods who had never been his friends in life. Yet the first time he had seen the kneeling statue of Verina, protector of travelers, he had felt an odd stirring in his heart. During the long journey he had stopped at every Verina statue and made a token offering of food or drink. He had served in her temple for a few short years when he was younger. It seemed so long ago now, that it might have been another person who had prayed at the altars and wished all travelers in the world peace.

A shame those prayers had never been saved for himself.

Tyren and his men had scoffed at the superstitious northerner at first, but as the journey progressed with few problems, he saw Tyren eyeing the old goddess with some consideration. It amused Kastashan to think he may have helped to reintroduce a piece of the old religion to counter the apostasy of the south, where the Cyrenian monarchy had introduced new gods as soon as they broke allegiance with Taris.

"Up! Up ye' damned beasts!" Tyren bellowed, and the donkeys answered in much the same tone. Soon the pack would catch up with him. After so many months on the trail, Katashan knew better than to waste the few precious moments he had to himself.

However, even knowing where to look, it still took him longer than expected to find the Verina Guardian for this pass. He had started to believe -- being this close to the Cyrenian heartland -- that it had been thrown down during the war.

Finally he found the very top of the statue's head showing through a snowdrift off to the right, farther from the trail than he had expected. By then he could also hear the plodding step of the lead donkeys and knew he didn't have much time if he wanted a moment to say his thanks in private for having had such a trouble free journey.

Getting to the statue wasn't easy this time, though. It lay in a blanket of snow, knee deep in many places. He tried not to curse as he forced his way through the ice crusted snowdrifts. Katashan had always believed the Gods listened at the worst of times, and he had already dared their ire too often in the past to take a chance now. He even bit back a curse when his foot caught on a snow covered limb and sent him sprawling near the feet of the Guardian.

By the time he stood, Tyren had almost topped the rise, all but dragging the lead donkey with him. Katashan quickly stood and brushed the snow from his pants and cloak. He took the last step and reached out, brushing snow from the covered statue --

The stone felt uncommonly warm, and it should have melted the snow for several feet around the shrine if he had been true warmth. Instead this had to be magic, and that could not be good.

"There you be," Tyren said from behind him. "Why'd ya not take the cleared path to your Guardian? Never struck me as a snow lover."

Path? Katashan turned and could clearly see the stone-lined trail, just a few steps to his left. He could not possibly have missed it before, except that the Goddess intended him to. . . and meant for him to trample through the snow.

And even fall as he had.

She would not have done it on a whim. The gods had never shown a taste for burlesque before, though irony and farce seemed common enough. So why send --

"Damn," he whispered, despite himself.

Katashan quickly retraced the three steps back to where he had fallen. He knelt, ignoring the cold, and brushed snow away from the limb -- and found frozen cloth beneath, and then fingers, blue as the ocean below.

"What norther ritual is it this time?" Tyren demanded as the rest of the caravan began to move past, his men anxiously herding the laden donkeys onward.

"Tether the animals and bring a blanket," Katashan ordered. He looked up into Tyren's scowling face. "I've found a body."

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Thursday, August 02, 2007


This is the first day I've worked to a new schedule in an attempt not to fall too far behind on anything again. I have a fancy little list, with seven or eight things written out for every single day of the week. Some of them are normal things like write, picture a day, and walk. I won't forget the first, and I've only been late on the second a couple times... but walk gets lost, and it's plainly what I need to do the most. So on the list it goes, with a little spot for a check mark next to it.

I have one room a day slated to be cleaned. I have things like FM, DTF, DAZ all set up for one or two times a week to specifically work on them... not that I won't work on them other days as well, but those are for the things that I keep putting off for lack of time, like the FM FAQ.

There are a few other things on the list that are fun, though. Zoo pictures, Painter work (like the picture there -- a painting of the sunset tonight. I think it came out very nicely!), and Blog updates -- which is why I'm doing this right now. It's the last thing on my list for today, and I'll have done all eight items. I could have cleaned the living room better, but at least it's a start! And I didn't add enough to my personal website, which is about to undergo a huge change, but at least it's something.

Otherwise I stay here at this little computer for far too long.

The new job is still taking a lot of my time, but I've enjoyed it so far. And having this schedule so I don't forget the other work will help.

My writing count is coming back up again, finally. I'm working on a nice little YA science fiction story that I don't think will go more than another two or three thousand words, so I should be done with it soon. Then I'm going to get back to some of the serious work, like A Plague of Rats. I'm looking forward to it! And I want to go back to work on the notes for Draw the Line, that science fiction story I had started getting ideas for before the DAZ job hit and everything escaped my brain for a couple weeks.

But things are looking good right now.

At least if I can keep to my schedule.
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