Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Servant Girl

This is a picture I did a few years ago. I forgot all about it. I would like to do more portrait type work like this. I really enjoyed it!

The Servant Girl is going wonderfully the last few days, even if everything else is kind of nuts. I'm trying to work on Vision, but that's just not going all that great. I'll get there, but it's kind of an annoyance right now to try and get it put together.

Just too many other things going on, I guess! End of the month and a ton of stuff I need to get done. So what do I do? I work on The Servant Girl because it's going to well and I really enjoy it. I'll pay for that later, I'm sure.

I don't really have time to try and come up with anything interesting to say. It's just not going to happen tonight. So here is a snippet of the novel and I'll just get back to work!

The Servant Girl

Beth leaned down against the scrub brush and pushed, forcing an ugly paste of brown mud up from between the stone tiles of the floor. It came reluctantly, and as she swiped at it with the cloth from the bucket, she again wondered how long it had been since anyone did this work. Mrs. Wynith hated her -- she knew it -- and always sent her to do the worst jobs in the castle. Beth had been working in this long, drafty hall for two days already, cleaning the area from the practice yard to the soldier's quarters in the lower level of Westmark Castle. People tracked from the yard through the building and out again, rarely glancing at the girl who so diligently worked to scrub away the signs of their passage.

She rested back on her heels a moment, listening to the din of sword practice beyond the half-arched windows to the left. For a moment two of the soldiers paused there, a man and a woman, leaning back and resting from the exertion.

"It's going to be damned crowded in quarters when the new recruits get here," the man said with a shake of his head. "Damn I hate preparing for war."

"We all do, except for a few of the really crazy ones. Or the children who don't know any better. It's going to be trouble --"

"You two! Off your lazy asses and back to work!"

They moved away. Beth would have liked to have heard more about the new troops and the war. She had heard talk of it before-- but she never learned what side of the war they meant, or even if they talked about the civil war that wracked the rest of the country. Here, far on the western edge of Ranas, the war sometimes seemed far away.

She reached the end of the hall again, and paused to look at the work. It did look better, and she took some little pride in the work, even as she watched three soldiers track more mud through again. No matter. She could do the work and at least here in this hall she had time to herself, away from the rest of the gaggle of servants. She'd gotten too used to her own company out there during the months she travelled away from Teloris.

Sometimes the memory of everything that had happened made her weep, though in an odd, displaced way, as though someone else really cried and she only looked on. She had lost touch with her emotions and didn't try to reconnect . Better to feel numb in this place filled with strangers who never even saw her. Better not to suffer anger at Mrs. Wynith's petty cruelty. She had a job. She could clean floors if it meant a meal each day and a bed -- no matter how hard -- to sleep in at night. She'd suffered through worse.

She did sometimes worry about the cold in this far western province. It was not even winter yet, which made her shiver a little in anticipation. She and Sondra had gone on a spring journey to the mountains when they were thirteen, and Prince Regent Perin still alive. They'd walked in snow in a high meadow -- amazed and cold, and pleased enough to go back to the lowlands and the warmth of a good fire.

The food ... the food had been wonderful that night.

Beth purposely turned back to the work at hand and buried such thoughts of the past away behind the mechanics of the work: push the brush, swipe with the cloth, rinse in the cold, gray water of the bucket. Push the bucket forward, crawl a little along the cold, wet floor, and start again.

Thoughts came again at the far end of the hall when she paused once more. Beth knew she could have borne this new life without much complaint if only she knew what had become of Sondra. News came so late to this little place and none of it reliable -- at least what the servants heard.

Lord Melton had apparently won followers among some of the Lords, but out here on the edge of the kingdom, people worried less about the civil war in the east and more about what their foreign neighbors would do. What she heard about Sondra was contradictory and sometimes so far fetched that she almost laughed to think anyone believed it. The worst rumors said Melton had Sondra and kept her in prison, or that the ship she had taken to leave port had been caught and sunk. That one frightened her, knowing it might be true. But she also heard that Sondra had given up the throne and taken vows as a priestess of the hearth, to live secluded away from all worldy connections, or that Sondra had reached one of a dozen foreign ports (it changed with each telling) and fell in love with a local prince who pledged himself and an army to help her win back her lands.

A shame Beth no longer believed in fairy tales.
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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

On to the next novel....

Good afternoon and welcome to Wednesday.

Russ was home last weekend and we had a nice time, though it was far too short. We discussed things like on-line stores and invitation-only publishing. We went to De Soto Wildlife Refuge twice and saw all kinds of great things there. He's back in New York now. I'm back in my office.

Draw the Line is very close to finished. I was beginning to wonder if the true ending would ever really appear to me, but it has in the last week and I've worked out my ending notes so that I can do the writing without much more trouble. I'm still writing at the 500 words a day, but as I draw closer to the end, I may end up just going for it.

I have started work on the research for two new novels. Those are going to start getting a lot more attention since I finished the rewrite of Rat Pirates a couple days ago. That was certainly a lot of fun to work my way through. I'm still uncertain what I'll do with the three books -- Vita's Vengeance, Badlands, Rat Pirates. They are an odd group.

But now I'm back to work on something more serious. I'm reworking The Servant Girl so that it includes magic in the story. From the very start, it's turning out to be a more interesting story. It's going to be a long haul on this one, but I think it will be well worth it in the end.


Chapter One
The fever spread from west to east, not deterred by deserts, mountain ranges or rivers. It worked its way from village to village and on to town and city ... and left behind dead in such numbers that some areas fell to ruin with no on left to care for homes, fields or flocks.

The deadly contagion took no notice of age or wealth. Young and old died, rich and poor, peasant and noble ... king and queen.

Of the royal family of Ranas, only Princess Sondra remained, and she a child of barely six. The Council hurriedly placed both the government and the princess in the care of her mother's cousin who became Prince Regent Petrin. Petrin, a military man who had never married, had no idea of how to deal with a child who wept for her lost parents.

Dark times came upon the land. The living buried the dead in mass graves, and the priests locked themselves in their temples and prayed -- and died there, alone and abandoned by man and gods.

Frightened people, looking for an answer to why they had fallen under such ill-times, believed enemies had struck at the ancient kingdom of Ranas with foul magic and a horrible curse. Mages became the scapegoats of the calamity, and those few who survived the mobs, left for safer havens.

The land survived through the first year of calamity. Prince Regent Petrin worked with the Council and together they kept the land in what order they could. He had better luck in council chambers than he had with the child who cried almost constantly for her lost parents. No nurse or plaything could solace her for long and the prince began to fear that the last heir would not live to see the new year.

Quite by accident, he found her a companion and playmate. Riding back from the docks, he spotted a small girl child sitting on a street corner, clutching a blanket, and obviously abandoned.
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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The BIG Books

So, yes. Wednesday and time to talk about writing!

Oh, the eye is still bothering me, of course. It will for a long time. It is especially hard for photography and reading -- rather annoying in both cases. I am trying to get past the 'annoyed' part and just work around it, but I'm now about ten days into it and it's still not easy. It has, though, stopped hurting. And I'm starting to recognize signs of strain leading to headache, so that's good!

Annoying, though.

Draw the Line is now up to 112,324 words. Yes, that's longer than I expected it to go, and no it is not done yet. It is going to be massive, but I think there's a lot I'm going to be cutting out, cutting back -- but a lot I see that I need to add, too. It's going to be an interesting rewrite. I've already been tacking notes on to the start of the story for things I want to remember to go over.

This is the last major novel I ever intend to write without a completed outline in hand. There are so many problems that I could have caught right off the start if I had just worked on the outline (instead of relying just on a bunch of notes about things I wanted to happen) that it's kind of embarrassing.

Even so, I like the novel. I am still doing the 500 words a day on it, though it is not always the very first thing I work on these days. In fact, I'm about to go in and attack the last of those 500 words in a couple minutes.

The rewrite of Rat Pirates is still fun. I am almost done with that book -- another massive monster that is right now sitting at 124,919. I fear it is going to top 130k. This must be the year of big sf books for me.

I am starting to look at a new fantasy novel, though. This one should be for NaNo this year. I had another one I had hoped to work up but it is going to take more worldbuilding than I think I can do in so short a time. This new story, which is going to be a Victorian Age fantasy (I think), will also take a lot of work, but not quite as much. I hope I can see the actual plot soon, though!

Well, for that matter, I hope I can see the rest of the plot to Draw the Line!

Here is a bit of a snippet from Draw the Line:

"I've come up with some interesting things," he said, settling on the bed. He looked like he wanted to just stretch out and sleep rather than relate anything. It made Rafe feel badly for having wasted sleep since it hadn't done him all that much good. "Etinon, have you been around the Norishi when they prepared for battle before?"

"Not in person," he said. "Only from ships."

"Audio contact? Video?" Morgan asked.

"Audio only. We keep our secrets," he said and tapped the pocket where he kept his own commlink.

Now there was an interesting comment and one Rafe wanted to ask about -- and refrained. He saw Morgan shake his head, plainly thinking much the same thing. He wondered if Etinon knew the kind of tidbit he had just thrown to two scientists who had come here specifically to learn about the aliens.

"In the audio contact, did they seem to be making odd sounds?"


"They're doing it now," Morgan said with a nod. "And there's something else. I've done a quick scan and I found that they are putting out a pheromone that is creating a level of anxiety in them and in the humans. I think they use it to create battle-ready status for themselves."

"This is what?" Etinon asked.

"A chemical reaction in the body," Morgan explained. "And it can be picked up by the others around them, so that they all get caught up in a single emotion. It is not affecting the humans the same way. They are also chanting and working themselves into a frenzy."


"A state beyond rational thought. I'm going to work with Doc to see if we can come up with a quick chemical mixture we can use to counteract the pheromone. If we can get something airborne, it might unsettle the Norishi. And it might help our own people out there. I'm not certain if it affects the Ksa at all."

Etinon went to the doorway and talked to another Ksa there. Rafe caught only a couple of the words and not enough to know anything of what he said. He came back in and gave a bow to Morgan.

"They had noticed a change in the scent, but it had not caused them any trouble and they had not considered it had to do with the change in behavior. Humans seem more apt to notice these things."

"We'll see if we can do anything about it," Morgan replied. He sounded worn again. "But I have other things to report as well. We tracked the site of the battle, Etinon. It appears to have been right on the edge of human and Ksa space. The last stop the ship made before being destroyed was a small colony called Wayland."

"I know this place," he said and nodded. "And that would mean that the Norishi were where they should not have been at all. It may be that which worried them more than even destroying the ship of the Old Ones. They know that we will not allow such transgresses."

"But you let the humans in."

"Humans and Ksa have not had a war that lasted generations."

Morgan nodded. Questions were in his eyes, but he didn't ask them, though he did look at Rafe as though hoping for some kind of answer from him. He didn't think now was the time to discuss something outside their own war. And he did not want to upset the Ksa, who were standing by them.

"I have come across one other item of interest." Morgan sat forward and Rafe had the feeling they were about to learn something far more interesting than anything they'd talked about so far. "It has nothing to do with the problem at hand, but it is related things going on here. I did a spectronomy test of the Old Ones ship to see if I could learn anything about the make up. The computer came up with an interesting corollary between the make up of those ships and another set we've seen here at Xenation."

"Norishi?" Rafe asked.

"No. Click."

Even Etinon looked startled by that news.

"The ship designs are not the same, but there are trace elements that are common to both that are not common to the rest of us. I tested against Xenation itself as well, but it's obvious the station was built completely with local materials, though there may be other things hidden back in the recesses of the station. I would like to think there is a connection, and that's why the Old Ones were coming here. It is possible the other ship was heading here as well, since it was within the jump point lanes -- if they even use jump points."

"It might be a coincidence that the Click and the Old Ones have these elements in common," Rafe said. But he shook his head. "It's unlikely, though, considering the size of the galaxy. So there is likely a link between them. That's just odd."

"The ones least like the rest of us." Morgan nodded and looked back at the doorway. "I think there might be a reason for it. That they aren't supposed to be like us, but that they're supposed to be with us. I don't know. Right now I'm running on gut feelings, and that's never good."

"In this case, it might be all we have," Rafe said. He touched the plate on the side of his head. That seemed to startle Morgan, as though he had stopped seeing it. "Xenation isn't really talking to me at all, you know. Images, I think. Odd things. More intense than before, but not what we need. We're going to have to figure this out on our own."

"Yes --" Morgan stopped even before Etinon lifted his hand for silence. The Ksa moved quickly to the doorway and stood there. The other Ksa were still as well. And a moment later two more Ksa arrived. One had a cut on his arm.

The Battle had come.
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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Eye Problems

I am having trouble with my right eye. The doctor says it's not an uncommon problem, and it will be like this for months --really annoying because I see a lot of lines and splots, and it's making it hard to work. And put me in a not-unreasonable bad mood. I've been getting my writing done, but not a whole lot else. That has to strop tomorrow. I need to get the newsletter finished. The real problem is working and not getting a headache.


So not much to say today. Just going to post this and get a bit of work done!

Here is a section from Draw the Line. I don't think I've posted this part yet! The Rafe is heading into the Market area on the station:

Even as he came through the human gate, he saw that business was starting to pick up along the haphazard aisles lined with booths made of everything from crates glued together to fine woven Ksa tents. The Norishi had several plain, black box-liked huts, with the wares laid out on tables at the door -- no one ever got inside the large huts which made him wonder why they went to all that trouble of putting them up... except, again, for show.

In all, the Ksa sector out did them all, though. They had some tents and some open-air stands, and all of them festooned with ribbons and flags -- and Rafael was beginning to think the colors and the symbols on the flags were far more than just decorative bits of ornament meant to draw attention. It all meant something to the Ksa.

The Click had no section of their own. They wouldn't sit still long enough to wait for trade to come. However, they did often wander in and out, trading one-on-one with some of the things they brought from their own enclave. Click artifacts fascinated everyone, and even the Norishi sometimes tried to lure them into their part of the market.

The click pets were less welcome. The little creatures got into everything, opening anything closed and sometimes making off with odd little things. They rarely got those things back, so people made certain nothing of importance sat out where little pet hands could get into them.

Rafael had come to like the little pests, though. He'd learned a few click sounds, and could clap his hand and click his tongue in an approximation of some simple, Click commands. He could sometimes get the pets to come to him, or to stop or sit.

He was working on a audio file dictionary and so far had five definite words and six maybe ones. It wasn't much, but it was a start. Even the Ksa admitted to having trouble understanding the Click, and they'd been in contact with them for over one hundred years.

Today, he moved through the human section, visiting with friends mostly, and trading a couple Ksa stones for a bag he could sling across his shoulder. A few booths later he added some bread to go in it, glad to see Gladys had gotten in supplies to bake again. She'd imported an oven with a small powercell and now she was the darling of just about everyone on the station, including the Ksa and -- because she was a woman -- the Norishi. Rafe suspected she was going to leave Xenation a very wealthy woman, and probably make the kind of money that the treasure hunters only dreamed about.

"The new shirts are done, Rafe," Orin said, waving him over. He pulled out two nice shirts, well-tailored and one blue, the other a shimmering silver. Rafe paid for them with some of his hoarded cred chits. His old shirts had started getting ratty and Neva was never going to allow him to draw on station personnel clothing. In some ways, he decided he didn't mind. It allowed him to be an individual, and wear things that didn't make him look like the others.

He touched the metal at the side of his face. Not that he would look like them anyway.

"Greetings and 'eace 'etween us, Rafael."

He turned, giving at automatic bow of greeting to the two Ksa men who had come up behind him. They wore dark suits today, the collars inlaid with green designs, and the long cloaks that meant they were on some official business. "Greeting and peace between us, Etinon and Saris. Is the market good today?"

Etinon patted the shoulder bag he carried made of some sort of alien leather and intricately detailed -- as was almost everything the Ksa did -- with gold and silver inlay. Rafael had come to think that each design held some significance, but he hadn't figured it out yet -- or even figured out if it was proper to ask the Ksa, who were open in many things, but not all. The Ksa had some strict rules of protocol. He tried very hard not to cross them, and basically let the Ksa take charge of most conversations.

"Market is fine," Etinon said. "Other 'atters are trou'ling, friend. Can you walk with us? You look unsteady."

He was the official business? He suspected that wouldn't be good, but he gave a quick nod of his head and placed the new shirts in his bag.

"Another round with the Displaced," he said, waving his hand back toward the work area. "I can walk with you. Thank you for the invitation."

Orin looked worried as he walked away with the two, and with good cause. If something bothered the Ksa enough to come to him, it meant real trouble out there somewhere.

Rafael asked nothing. There were protocols that must be observed with the Ksa. While the Norishi were all about show and drawing attention, the Ksa had rituals that were imperative to their species. They forgave others for not knowing the rituals, but they treated those who at least took the time to try to learn them with extra respect.

The Ksa stood taller than most humans, though not by much. Humanoid in shape, but slightly different -- longer fingers, a thinner, flatter face, and a mouth and lips that could not form the letters b, p, or m. Rafael knew a few Ksa words from the market, but they spoke fluent human basic -- at least the ones whom he had met. They didn't seem to think it important that he learn their own language, at least as long as he observed what rituals he knew. The words appeared to be less important, in some respects, than the actions.

They were walking back toward the Ksa market. He had been heading that way anyway.

The gateway to the Ksa section of the market was hung with ribbons of dark, rich colors. He had come to know that they were something of a message board, giving notice to other Ksa about matters within the Ksa realm. Today he saw far too much black hung in long streamers on both sides and frowned at the site.

Saris saw where he looked and nodded. "You are wise."

That sent a chill through him, but he gave a bow of his head as he neared the gateway and let the other two go ahead. He paused, clasping his hands together and bowing his head a little lower. "May I, a stranger, be accepted within your realm?"

"Co' within and 'e welco' to our 'lace," Saris said, bowing is head.

Some thing told him this was not where he really wanted to go today -- he had the feel of one disaster after another striking -- but he bowed his head, in return. "Thanks to all within for the welcome."

He stepped inside the gate, giving one last glance to the black ribbons.
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