30 Nov 2018

NaNo 2018 - The End

NaNoWriMo is over!  Time to breathe and relax!  For everyone who participated, whether you reached 50 000 words, reached a personal goal, or just made it to the end, take a bow.

My official word count is 57 635 as validated by the NaNo site.  That's a little above average for a NaNo project for me.  Considering that I had no idea where the story was going even as I was writing, I'll take it!  Seriously, my approach was to figure out what sounded good, then used that as an intermediate target.  The ghost of a Confederate officer controlling ghouls in order to wreak havok upon the North?  Sure, sounds good.  Zombie Elvii defeated through music?  Beats anything else that I can think of, which wasn't much.  Mermaid attacks in the Middle East?  Works for me!  None of that was even in mind on November 1st.  The mermaid attack only came up last weekend.

What did I have?  Three characters who could argue for several pages as needed.  It's great when there's a conflict between leads.  They do and say all sorts of things that let me mark time until I know what I'm doing.  Heaven's Rejects was completely pantsed, more that The Elf's Prisoner was.  Not that I use outlines normally; only By the Numbers had one, and even that was sparse.  I do try to have a few scenes in mind to aim for while I'm writing, though.  This year?  I knew how to get Nadia and Ian to meet Demona, but that's was it.  That was one chapter.  I finished NaNo at the beginning of Chapter 12.

In terms of writing, my best days were Sundays, during the library write-ins.  Once I got going, I could regularly reach 2000 words in a day, with just a few days where I didn't make that.  The worst was the second day, with 92 words written.  I was out of town for most of the day with no way to write, though I did spend time trying to figure out where I was going.  This year wasn't the first time I had to fight back from a deficit, even that early in the year.

What's next with Heaven's Rejects?  A lot of clean up.  Fix some spelling, fix some grammar, maybe add needed scenes that I couldn't think of at the time.  Maybe adjust the chapters to be more even, since the goal is to serialize the story.  I won't have the problem that dba LTV Paranormalists had with the first arc being a complete mess.  It's a minor clean up instead of a major rewrite.

This was a fun year.  Again, challenging because of life stuff, but I made it!  Yay!

The Elf's Prisoner - Chapter 6

Chapter 6

Kazimier returned home with his prisoner, Jyslyn.
Kazimier's apartment, Wildwood, the Sylvan Forest
Jyslan sank deeper into the tub.  While not the luxury she had in her family's holdings, just getting clean felt sensuous after the hike through the woods.  The tub wasn't long enough for the dark elf to stretch out her legs; her knees poked above the water.  Jyslyn splashed water over them with her left hand, her ink black skin glistening.  Her right hand, though, was chained overhead to a rafter, making bathing a challenge.  Jyslyn didn't fault her guard; if their positions were switched, the dark elf wouldn't have bothered with untying her.

Kaleena hammered on the door.  "Are you finished?" she called.

Jyslyn ran her fngers through her copper red hair, grimacing on feeling the grime in it.  "Will you help me with my hair?"  She wasn't sure if the amusement in her tone would carry through the door or even be appreciated by her guard.

The door slammed open.  Kaleena stormed inside.  "You are done.  Out of the tub."

Jyslyn pulled herself up.  "I need to dry off."  She stepped out of the tub, keeping her back to her guard.

Kaleena hurled a towel at the dark elf.  "The Council is expecting you."

"I could be faster if I had both hands free."  Jyslyn began towelling herself off.

"And if I had wings, I could fly."  Kaleena glowered at the dark elf.  Her expression changed on seeing the blistering skin on the woman's back.  "What happened to you?  I mean, your back."

"I spent too much time under the sun."  Jyslyn finished by drying her legs.  "I am ready to get dressed."

Kaleena handed the dress over to the dark elf.  After a moment, she cursed under her breath.  "Of course they don't send clothes without sleeves."

29 Nov 2018

The Elf's Prisoner - Commentary 5

Back to Wildwood, to catch up with Kazimier and Jyslyn, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 5.

One of the benefits of changing over to Nyssa and Leo in Chapters 3 and 4 is that I gave myself time to figure out just what the elven city looked like.  One goal I gave myself while writing the story, beyond just getting to 50 000 words despite having no idea what I was doing, was to make sure that different cultures had different architecture.  The Seven Domains are standard Medieval and Renaissance buildings, with castles, mottes and baileys, wood buildings with narrow, twisty streets, and all that good stuff found in fantasy RPGs.  For the Wildwood elves, I wanted something a different.  So, the city is built in the trees.  It's not all that original; Solace in the Dragonlance setting.  The idea is that the elves are so in tune with nature that they can grow their buildings instead of constructing them.

Of course, that is a lot to work out all at once when I'm building the world as I go.  I worked out the key areas that I'd need - the council chambers, the inn, the gates - and then hoped I didn't need to map the city out.  That's right, no map exists.  Why?  That would take time away from figuring out the plot of the story.  I was already using the BC coastline for the world to save time.  I'd steal an existing city if I needed it.

I also had a rough idea that the Wildwood elves were a matriarchy, though no idea of how it worked.  A Council of Elders felt like a good way to contrast the Seven Dominions hierarchical structure.  The problem with that is now I'd need to figure out who the Elders were, or at least the critical ones.  This is about where I started getting the idea that the dark elves and the Wildwood elves had parallel culture.  Why not, I figured, just happy to have something going.  And, yes, Matriarch Starpetal is related to Kazimier.  The Elders are the heads of the families in the city.

Captain Kaleena Sundew was originally just there to be a senior guard who watched over Jyslyn.  Her role expanded because Jyslyn needed someone to talk to and Kazi was busy.  That tends to happen in my writing.  The Devil You Know is a good example, with several characters, including Mara, intended for just one scene becoming important later.

Kazi's closing line sums up Jyslyn's motives.  She wants to atone for something she did.  Jyslyn is well aware of what she's facing.  Kazi is wise, and knows how people think.  He still gets called out by his great-aunt, though.  Matriarch Starpetal is well aware of who her great-nephew is.

Friday, a stir in the elven city, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 6
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, to be determined.

28 Nov 2018

The Elf's Prisoner - Commentary 4

Dame Nyssa and her squire, Leomund, have a little trouble on their way to the Realm Under the Mountain, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 4.

I needed a bit of action in here, more to get the word count going than anything else.  It also helped to show how Nyssa and Leomund reacted to a threat.  Nyssa also has a magical sword, one that lets her know when there is danger.  She also protected her squire.  The odds are bad - two against one with Leomund, four against one without - so this is a test of her skill.  Leomund is still in training; he's not really allowed to fight unless Nyssa gives the okay, but some situations mean not listening to orders.  I also got to show the effects of Nyssa's age; she's not as fit as she was in her prime, though there are many in the setting who would love to be as fit as she is.

As a Knight of the Realm, Nyssa is also responsible for enforcing the King's law.  She can choose not to, but she'd have to give a good reason to His Majesty.  This time, she does.  While she hasn't really let His Majesty know what's going on, Nyssa has the leeway to make the decision for him.  Otherwise, she wouldn't be a Knight of the Realm.

Nyssa also believes in the Socratic method, though the world would call it something else.  No Greece, no Socrates.  She wants Leo to figure out what she already knows.  It's a valid teaching method, especially one-on-one.  Leo's there to learn, so he, too, can one day be a Knight of the Realm.

The purpose of the chapter was the action, with some more indication of the nature of the mystery.  Bandits with a fancy axe should be a clue that something's not quite right, especially when they were defeated despite being outnumbered.  I also could show Nyssa when she's not being diplomatic, not that she's the best one to send for that sort of mission.  The poisoning is a set up for getting the two main groups of characters together.

Tomorrow, commentary catch continues!
Friday, a stir in the elven city, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 6
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, to be determined.

25 Nov 2018

NaNo 2018 - Week 4

The fourth Sunday of NaNo is done.  I put on a major push and it was worth the effort.  Or, to let music videos speak for me, from Kool and the Gang to Pitbull.  I still need to validate, but that can happen before the 30th.  As long as I don't forget.  The new goal is to get to 750 000 words lifetime.  I'm not far, about 3500 words.

With the word count dealt with, what's next?  Usually, I wind up slowing down after reaching 50k.  This year, though, I have an idea to work on for a couple of days.  With the zombie Elvii now dealt with, that leaves the cast ready for their next mission.  A random idea led to research which is now leading to the Middle East, a great place for a Catholic and a Jew to visit.  I do need to do a bit of research of the area, but the beginnings are there.

The zombie Elvii finally appeared, and then led to three chapters to get rid of them.  And as exciting as fighting zombies looks on screen, there's a point where trying to make the fight interesting while writing just fails.  Fortunately, a bizarre idea entered my head, and I was able to make full use thanks to not knowing what ringtone Demona had.  Unlike Ian and Nadia, who use actual ringing, Demona uses a song clip.  I hadn't named it, but I left a placeholder.  That placeholder can now be replaced with foreshadowing.  I love it when a plan comes together.  I even managed to work in a Demona subplot that was dangling from last week.  Go me!

There's just five days left in NaNoWriMo.  Good luck to everyone participating.  Me, I'll be trying to get a good start on the next chapter to set up my characters, then senf them off to get into trouble.  December 1st, I breathe and not worry about word count, then start fixing the little mistakes that have crept in.

If you want to follow my process, you can check my stats page over the month and see how I'm doing compared to where I should be.

23 Nov 2018

The Elf's Prisoner - Chapter 5

Chapter 5

Dame Nyssa and her squire, Leomund, set off to the Realm Under the Mountain, only to be waylaid before they got too far.
Wildwood, the Sylvan Forest
Kazimier's mood improved as the city of Wildwood appeared and grew closer.  The city sat nestled in the trees at the edge of the forest, allowing the elves who dwelled there room for farming without having to travel too far.  Carrad took one of the patrollers with him to run to the city, no doubt to warn the Council of Matriarchs about Kazimier's prisoner.

With the prisoner in his thoughts, Kazimier spared a glace at her, wanting to see Jyslyn's reaction.  The dark elf's face remained impressive, but she did stare at the city.  Kazimier allowed himself a smile.  He had talked with the dark elf over the three day journey, though Jyslyn revealed very little about herself.  Not once did she try to escape, though.  Kazimier knew when he first saw her in the clearing that the dark elf was a mystery; the mystery kept deepening with every step she took.  Surely, Kazimier wondered, she knew what would happen to her in Wildwood.

It took Kazimier and the rest of the patrol an hour or two to reach the city's entrance.  A wooden staircase lowered, letting the patrol inside.  The gate room had tall, solid wood walls reaching to the leafy canopy overhead.  There were only two ways out, the staircase, now being raised, and the barred gateway.  On the parapets overhead, several archers had bows out and drawn, aiming at Kazimier's prisoner.  Jyslyn didn't pay any attention to them nor to anything else except Kazimier, staying two steps away from whenever he moved.

The gate opened, sliding into the protective wall.  Three older women, flanked by armoured guards with swords drawn, walked into the gate room.  Kazimier dropped to one knee, his head bowed.  His fellow patrollers did the same, leaving only Jyslyn standing.

22 Nov 2018

The Elf's Prisoner - Commentary 3

Now that the elves have had their time in the spotlight, it’s time to introduce the next two main characters.  Nyssa and Leomund, a knight and her squire, make their first appearance, as does a location that isn’t elven controlled.

At this point, I started needing a rough idea of geography.  I have nations, so I need to know where they are relative to each other.  They don’t have to border each other.  There’s space, room to expand, and dangers between nations.  I wound up using lower British Columbia as a guide.  Most European-style fantasy tends to have mountains to the east, because that’s where they are relative to the writers, at least in English language fantasy.  Moving the mountains west does change things up a little.  It also means weather patterns will change.  It’s a little dryer on the eastern side of the Rockies; the higher altitudes as clouds rise up cool things down, causing precipitation on the western side.  It’s a place to start, to be filled in later.  Remember, this was all being pantsed during NaNo 2015 with nothing planned beyond the main characters, and even they changed as the writing progressed.

With the new location, I needed a new country name.  The Seven Dominions just popped into my head, though inspired by “Dominion of Canada” and the various dominions in Traveller’s Third Imperium.  But that’s just the start.  How does this nation work?  No idea.  I didn’t get into the details; there wasn’t the time to figure them out.  At that point, I just worked out the nobility, figured a count would be the level to want assistance, and went from there.  If it was one of the seven domains, the King’s Army would’ve been sent out.  At the county level, one of the King’s Own knights gets to find out what’s going on.

Dame Nyssa is the cast’s elder spokesperson.  She has the experience dealing with difficult people, like, say, Count Varin.  Her role is mentor.  Originally, I did have a target on her.  The mentor always dies so that the lead character can make the jump from student to master.  Except, I didn’t want that for her, mainly because it’s too obvious.  I should just paint her armour red if I wanted that.  I have other plans, though.  Her squire, Leomund, is the kid of the cast.  He’s not completely na├»ve, but he wasn’t expecting to be assigned to someone like Nyssa.  Leo is one to follow protocol; Nyssa uses protocol to her benefit.  Leo still has the impetuousness of youth; Nyssa observes first, then acts.  However, Nyssa isn’t a taskmaster.  She has Leo’s best interests in mind.

I got the name Nyssa from Doctor Who, specifically, Nyssa of Traken as played by Sarah Sutton.  Leomund comes from the mage in D&D originally played by Len Lakofka and responsible for such spells as Leomund’s tiny hut and the column of the same name in Dragon.  That set the tone for names from the Seven Domains.  Even Count Tathan’s name comes from older English.  Varin is more or less random, but from there, I have a River Varin and the city of Varinford, where there’s a way to cross the Varin.  Not great in originality, but similar exists in the real world.

Yes, there are dwarves in the world.  Not original, either, but I needed something here.  The dwarves have their on kingdom, known on the surface as the Realm Under the Mountain.  The dwarves don’t bother with anything more than just the Realm, but the surface world needs to differentiate the nations somehow.  With a name like that, of course the dwarves live underground un the mountains.  It’s a detail that was created spur of the moment, though not without reason.  The reason being, dwarves are known for mining.  Beyond that, I have nothing on their culture at this point of the writing.  I do know that the story is going to the Realm Under the Mountain, though.  What happens there, well, that’s too far away to worry about.

The plot concept should now be out there.  The Cleaven Eye tribe was set upon the elves of the Sylvan Forest.  The Seven Dominions is being set against the Realm Under the Mountain.  Someone is sowing chaos.  Which means I have an antagonist somewhere.  I don’t yet have a motive, just the scheme, but it’s a start.  Again, I was pantsing this after a last minute decision.  I don’t know why the chaos is being sown.  I don’t know who is behind the scheme.  I just kept writing, hoping that it’d make sense later.

Friday, a stir in the elven city, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 5
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, remaking the MST3K classic, Space Mutiny.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power.

18 Nov 2018

NaNo 2018 - Week 3

NaNo week three is done.  First, a look at where I stand.  Which is upright unless my back starts twinging.  My word count, though, is much better.  I managed to build a buffer, currently standing at over three days.  This comes from pushing to get 2000 words a day.  I didn't succeed everyday this past week, but one once did I not even make the 1667 minimum daily goal.  I capped the week with a 3000+ word push at the library write-in.  I hit most of my goals for the week.

Most.  The one goal I've had this past week is to get the zombie Elvii out.  I mentioned them last update.  They're still coming.  I just didn't have my characters in a spot where I could have them meet the zombies.  I should get to them by Tuesday.  I only realized where they would be today.

And that's the fun of pantsing.  I really have no idea where I'm going.  The NaNo wiki helpfully points out that it's hard for a pantser to get to 50k words.  I beg to differ.  I have a 100% success rate so far, going 12 for 12.  However, Heaven's Rejects really has just whim driving it.  When I started, I only had how my characters met in mind.  Zombie Elvii weren't even a possibility.  But, when it came up, I went for it.  Why?  It fit in with the story concept.

Of course, once I wrap up that plot thread, I'm kind of stuck.  I have a few subplots seeded in what I've written so far, and one needs to return before this arc finishes.  Demona's not allowed to be in Las Vegas, though she doesn't know why.  She's been avoiding the subplot so far, but her luck will run out.

Going into the fourth week, I'm pretty much in the same spot I thought I was in this time last week.  I have an arc to wrap up, plot threads to tie together, and a new arc to figure out.  Something will come up.  It always does.  Sometimes, it's a random thought; other times, it comes from the characters.  I just need to figure out where, then send the characters off to bulldoze through a carefully constructed plot.

If you want to follow my process, you can check my stats page over the month and see how I'm doing compared to where I should be.

16 Nov 2018

The Elf's Prisoner - Chapter 4

Chapter 4

A Knight of the Realm of the Seven Dominons took up a quest for the Count of Varin.

Wilderness borders, County of Varin, Seven Dominions
Nyssa called for a stop as the sun reached its peak in the sky.  Leomund brought his horse up to join hers  "Is there a problem, ma'am?"

"Just time for lunch, Leo.  Get a fire going."  Nyssa regarded her young squire as he dismounted.  Her own joints creaked as she got off her own horse.  Of all the enemies she faced in her life, time was turning into her most relentless opponent.  Old injuries long healed ached as she stepped away from her horse.  She worked her shoulders, rotating them to loosen the muscles.

As she groomed her horse, she heard the popping of Leomund's fire.  "Good.  Get the small pot out.  We're having soup."

"Soup, ma'am?"  Leomund retrieved the pot from his saddle bags.  "Shouldn't we be using our rations?"

"Nonsense.  We have decent food now.  It'll go bad and we'll rush to use it instead of preparing it properly.  Life's too short for bad cooking."  Nyssa got out a package wrapped with waxed leather.  "And I paid the innkeeper for this morsel.  He said that all the spices we'll need are already in the meat."  The old knight tossed her waterskin to her squire.  "We'll find a creek to fill this later.  And we'll get proper rations in the elven city."

Leomund fumbled with the waterskin but was able to keep from dropping it.  "Are the elves going to welcome us, ma'am?"  He filled the cookpot with water then set it on the fire.

15 Nov 2018

The Elf's Prisoner - Commentary 2

Attacked in the Sylvan Forest, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 2.

The focus turns to Jyslyn for the chapter.  An outsider, the attack gave me a chance to get in her head.  This focus meant I didn't have to worry about the overall scene.  Jyslyn's focus is on just her survival.  She has a chance to escape.  Looks like Kazimier got into her head, though.  That one phrase will keep returning.  "It's not what we choose, but why."

For the fight, I used a place holder for the monsters involved.  The cave bear I knew I wanted it when it showed up.  The rest?  When writing in NaNoWriMo, I use placeholders that are easy to find when I just can't come up with the proper name, typically by using a dollar sign in front.  It makes for an easy search later, and the placeholders tend to be unique, like $monster1.  A search and replace in a word processor fixes things up later.  The gnolls weren't even gnolls, just a placeholder.  The reason I went with gnolls is because I was hoping to have a druid wearing a patch of sod on its head later.  That's right, I wanted a grassy gnoll.  Bad puns can drive decisions during NaNo.

The fight is probably the longest I've gone without dialogue.  I tend to be dialogue heavy, but no one wanted to say anything during the battle.  It gave me a chance to just do description.  That is tough to sustain.  The action helped - at least there was something happening - but to have no one talking was odd for me.  That said, it works.

Jyslyn had a few more surprises.  She understands the surface elves.  No one ever asked her.  She just let Kazi and his comrades believe she couldn't.  Jyslyn also returns Kazi's knife, and not because she's surrounded.  She turns Kazi's own phrase back on him.  Jyslyn is there for a reason.

I threw a number of names out at the audience.  I'm not expecting anyone to track all the named characters.  It's just that. for me, a living, breathing world has more people than just the lead characters.  Along with Kazimier and Jyslyn, Carrad gets a name, along with the dead elf, Derluen.  The rest of the elves and even the gnolls have names, they just haven't been determined by me.  But if I needed one, I would have found one.  Kazimier isn't out patrolling with spear carriers and redshirts.  He's there with people he knows.  There's just not enough focus available for each elf in the patrol.

Friday, unexpected travel companions, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 4
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, the importance of casting in adaptations.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, remaking the MST3K classic, Space Mutiny.

11 Nov 2018

NaNo 2018 - Week 2

Last week, I got off to a slow start.  With the first full week, counted Monday to Sunday, have things changed?


I ended last week using the first library write-in to not just catch up but get a little ahead, by 3/4 of a day, or 1272 words.  That's a small buffer, though, one that would be wiped if I ran into problems inside or outside of NaNo.  That meant making sure I wrote each night this past week.  The good news, though, is that I did.  It took me a few days to get back up to full speed, but I did do just that.  At the end of the week, I managed to get a full day's worth of writing extra, which makes for a far better buffer.

Numerically, things are good.  Narratively, things were looking thin.  I have characters.  I have vague ideas of where things are going.  But the first multipart episode wound up going in the weeds a few times.  I had to take time to figure out the why of the plot, which delayed the writing of the plot.  After a few searches, mostly on the American Civil War, I figured out what was going on in the background enough to let my characters play havoc with the plot.

The end of that plot meant figuring out where to go next.  I hadn't thought that far out.  If 2015 was bad for being prepared, 2018 is a disaster.  I didn't get a chance to think through potential arcs for the serial.  Ottawa's wonderful Municipal Liaisons, though, had other ideas.

Ottawa NaNo participants have been getting a leaflets to help track progress for years, from before I was an ML for a couple of years.  One of the great motivators discovered in the past is stickers.  Sounds silly, but being able to earn a sticker has gotten more words written in Ottawa than anything else.  The leaflet includes a bingo card, with bragging rights the main motivator to fill it.  This year, the theme is weddings, whether eloping or formal.  And that's where I found inspiration.

No, none of the characters are going to get married, at least not yet.  The bingo cards had two interesting boxes, "Vegas" and "Elvis".  From there, zombie Elvii threatening Las Vegas.  It's a leap, but it's there.  Why?  /Heaven's Rejects/ isn't supposed to be that serious, despite what I wound up doing for the second mission.  This is a story that doesn't always go for a deep meaning, not when the weird will do.  A bunch of zombies shuffling down the Las Vegas Strip in rhinestone coveralls?  And I can do anything I want to a zombie.  It's already dead!

Of course, that means I need to start thinking ahead to what my cast will do after that.  Zombie Elvii won't take up 30k words on their own.  They do let me put off the work needed for a day, though.  That's all I need.

If you want to follow my process, you can check my stats page over the month and see how I'm doing compared to where I should be.

9 Nov 2018

The Elf's Prisoner - Chapter 3

Chapter 3

Kazimier, Jyslyn, and the patrol fought off a number gnolls from the Cleaven Eye tribe, who should not have been in the area.

The Count's Court, Varinford, County of Varin, Seven Dominions
Leomund lurked along the wall, trying not to draw attention to himself.  Thathan, the Count of Varin had all of his barons, his own knights, his barons, and his barons' senior knights summoned to court.  Dame Nyssa, the knight Leomund squired to, had the attention of the assemblage.  She was the only knight not summoned.  Indeed, she was the reason for the meeting.  Unlike Leomund and much to his discomfort, Nyssa had no problem with attracting attention.  A mix of harsh whispers, angry shouts, and barking laughs filled the room with a din.

The Count pounded on the arm of his throne, the clanging of his ceremonial mace on the metal arm calling the meeting to order.  "Enough!"  As the murmurs died, the Count got to his feet.  "When I asked His Majesty for help, I expected more than one old knight and her squire."  He pointed at Dame Nyssa.  Leomund's cheeks began burning under the stares directed at him.  The young squire remained still, though, as the Count continued, "Varin is facing an invasion.  I expected troops."

Nyssa stood.  "If I may, my Lord?"

"Oh, please, speak.  I cannot wait to hear what you have to say."

Nyssa walked down the aisle between the rows of wooden pews.  "My Lord, if His Majesty sent troops every time a vassal claimed there was a threat to the realm, the soldiery would be exhausted."  The dame paused as a ripple of laughter passed through the court.  "That's why he sent me, a Knight of the Realm.  To determine just what the threat is."

Tathan glared at the knight.  "I did detail what I received in my missive."

"You did, and the note was well written.  His Majesty was able to read every perfectly formed letter."  Nyssa allowed herself a smirk.  "You didn't send the missive you received.  A threat from the dwarves?  My Lord, His Majesty needs more than even your word."

The Count snapped his fingers.  His Knigh-Martial retrieved a scroll from a side table, then marched it over to Nyssa.  "Written proof," Tathan said.

Nyssa unrolled the scroll.  She read the note, then looked back up.  "Dwarven script, I'll give you that.  What were you going to do with the troops you requested?"

"Attack the dwarves before they attacked us."

"Brilliant plan, my Lord.  Let us lay seige to the dwarven mountain.  Your engines of war wouldn't penetrate deep enough and the dwarves have enough food and water to last years.  And let us not forget that we'd have to go through the Sylvan Forest.  I think the elves will want a say in having your forces march through, hunting on their lands."

The Count's face reddened.  Leomund shrunk back, away from Dame Nyssa.  "And just what do you propose, o Knight of the Realm?  Giving the dwarves our first born sons?"

"Of course not.  They have no used for them."  Nyssa shook her head.  "No, my Lord, what will happen is that my squire and I will go talk with the dwarves and find out why they want to march this far."  She shook the paper in her hand.  "I have met ambassadors from below the mountain.  They're gruff, plain spoken.  If they're going to threaten, they'd tell us exactly what they'll do to us."

"And if the threat is real?"

"Then I return, stopping in elven lands to gain permission for your seige weapons and your levy to pass through.  I give you my word as one of His Majesty's knights."  Nyssa handed the scroll back to the Knight-Martial, then turned.  "Leomund, we have preparations."  Without waiting for a dismissal, she walked out of the Count's manor.

Leomund stared at the doorway a moment before realizing he needed to catch up.  He bowed deeply towards the Count.  "If I may, my Lord?"  He heard his voice crack.

Tathan sighed.  "Go."

"Thank you, my Lord."  Leomund bowed again, then ran after Nyssa.

The old knight waited at the gates to the manor.  She resumed walking as her squire caught up.  "Took you long enough, Leo."

"I had to--"

"No, you didn't."  Nyssa ran a hand through her steel grey hair.  "Remember, you answer to me.  You are my responsibility."

"Yes, ma'am."

Nyssa wrapped an arm around her young squire's shoulder.  "The Count would have to either speak with me or with His Majesty himself.  You're duty is to me."

"Yes, ma'am."  Leomund kept his eyes forward.  "Where now, ma'am?"

"You're getting our gear ready.  We're leaving at morning's first light.  I have a letter to send to His Majesty.  There is something afoot here."

Leomund looked up at Nyssa.  "Ma'am?  But, you all but dismissed the Count's concerns."

"He had the wrong concerns.  The message mentioned dead bodies found.  If that had happened, the Count would have been visited by angry dwarves, not an angry scroll.  Tathan, though, is quick to anger himself.  Threaten his lands, and he overreacts."  Nyssa stopped walking.  "We need to have the calmer heads here."

"We're doomed, ma'am."

Nyssa ruffled Leomund's page-boy haircut.  "Funny, Leo.  Go.  Make sure we're ready to leave come morning."

Next Week:
Dame Nyssa and her squire, Leo, head out to investigate the dwarven missive.

8 Nov 2018

The Elf's Prisoner - Commentary 1

Thank you for bearing with me over the past few weeks.  Life got complex, but the commentary is back, even with NaNo going on.

Two weeks back, the first chapter of The Elf's Prisoner appeared.  This was my 2015 NaNo effort.  Fair warning right now - it's incomplete.  Not incomplete like The Soul Blade or The Devil You Know, both of which were just chapters from being completed.  No, The Elf's Prisoner ends at maybe the first third.  The story got away from me.  That's what happens when you pants not just the plot but also the world building.  Epic fantasy does need some prep work, especially if going out beyond a village.

First thing I decided was how elven names were spelled.  JRR Tolkien has had a huge influence on elven names, with names like Galadriel and Arwen.  However, this time around, I wanted to make the names more mine.  The best way I had was to use existing languages and tweak them.  This decision for the elves led to other choices that gave me new insights on the peoples of my slowly forming world.  My elves are using tweaked Polish names for their given name.  Thus, they now feel more real, at least to me.

Jyslyn, though, predates that decision.  Jyslyn dates from 1985, with the release of Unearthed Arcana for AD&D 1st edition, with the name coming from 1991 supplement, Drow of the Underdark.  And for those wondering if she's another Drizzt Do'Urden, she predates him.  Sure, the idea of the atoning drow is old.  Atonement is a common motivation for characters.  The other difference is her build.  In AD&D 1st edition, non-human and demi-human characters could mult-class, taking two or three classes at once, though gaining levels very slowly.  With Jyslyn, I saw that a drow PC could become a magic-users/thief.  There's one catch.  Drow men could be better wizards than drow women, and both had level limits.  Jyslyn could pick up levels of wizard, but would be stopped at fourth or fifth.  Thus, multi-classing as a thief, where she could at least keep up with the rest of the party somehow.

That's just mechanics, though.  The character comes out in the why.  Why is Jyslyn dabbling in magic?  Why is she good at sneaking around?  Why is she leaving her home?  The first two, I'll answer now.  Jyslyn will answer why she left her home in a later chapter.  Why dabble in magic and why sneak?  The two are related.  Jyslyn was fascinated by magic as a young elf girl.  She managed to sneak around to spy on classes where she could learn how to cast spells.  At first, she was caught and punished, which made her more determined to be careful.

Kazimier is a priest of the Lightbringer.  The gods in the world go by many names across the unnamed land.  Priest can pray for help, getting spells as needed.  I did want to avoid turning the story into a D&D clone.  It's difficult when one of the characters starts from that game.  But I wanted my world to be mine.  Spells may be inspired by the game, but how they work aren't.  Kazi's spell to understand Jyslyn had an effect that made it clear that it came from the Lightbringer.  Healing was done with a magical salve instead of a major casting.  The difference is spell casting was definitely a challenge for me.

I have since done some worldbuilding for the story.  Normally, yes, the worldbuilding comes first, but that's what happens when you choose a story with minutes to go before November 1st arrives.  Some of the worldbuilding was just noting what I had done.  Some of it, though, was extrapolating what I wanted to see how the world fleshed out.  I may be making some edits along the way to adjust the story to how the world should be.

Friday, elsewhere in the land, others are running into similar problems, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 3.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, still on hiatus.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, the importance of casting in adaptations.

4 Nov 2018

NaNo 2018 - Week 1

It's a short week, but Sundays seem to be the best time to take stock of what I've done during the previous days.  This will be a four day week, short and sweet.

Thanks to other things happening in my life, I got off to a slow start.  Just over 1000 words on Day 1.  But I started.  I went with Heaven's Rejects, though Threefold Witches and Unruly are on stand by.  Who knows what will happen.  And the start went well enough, despite not getting 1667 words on the first day.

Day 2, and the words came out.  I managed to catch up and get a bit ahead.  Great news, except I was already planning on being out of town on Saturday on a trip I was looking for.  But, briefly ahead, and I figured out how to get one of the elements I wanted in the work in there.  For an extra bonus, the element let me add words without necessarily knowing where I was going in the story.

So, Day 3, out of town, but I got 92 words done.  It was something, and let me continue my update streak on NaNo's site.  This set me up for Sunday, the first library write-in.  Write-ins are great - there's energy.  Everyone is there also writing.  There's writing sprints, short bursts where everyone is encouraged to just right.  I came in hoping to get at least 2500 words to catch up and reach the 6667 words I should be at on Day 4.  When I arrived, I put down 3000 words for my goal.  My final total after the write-in?  3385 words, putting me at 7545 total, ahead of pace.

Coming up, the first full week of NaNo.  More write-ins.  More writing.  And I still need to figure out where I'm going.  The characters are interacting, I have a mysterious explosion to solve, by the cast and by me, and some more research to be done.  And the research is getting interesting.  The location of the explosion turned out to have been remodelled earlier this year.  That changes the nature of the mystery, and now I might have an idea of what's going on.

If you want to follow my process, you can check my stats page over the month and see how I'm doing compared to where I should be.

2 Nov 2018

The Elf's Prisoner - Chapter 2

Chapter 2

Kazimier and his patrol discovered Jyslyn, a dark elf, lying near death.

The Sylvan Forest
Jyslyn watched her captor run to join the fight.  She remained behind, hefting her borrowed dagger in her hand, getting a feel for its weight.  Gnolls swarmed from the darkness of the forest, but if they used the darkness, Jyslyn was at home in it.  She ducked behind the fallen log and crept on barefeet over the dirt floor of the forest, making no sound.  The clash of swords and shouts of the surface elves just made things easier for her as she worked her way behind the gnolls.

Something about the attack didn't feel right, but a battle was no time for introspection.  First priority, neutralize the threat.  A few spells came to her mind, but without needed components, they may as well have been dreams.  The dagger, though, was real.  As was the gnoll lurking behind his horde, waiting to dart in with his spear.  Jyslyn crept towards him, willing herself to become one with the forest shadows.  The gnoll raised his spear, readying for a overhead thrust down on a surface elf.

Jyslyn moved in, her tunic's folds whispering against themselves.  A twig snapped beneath her feet, getting the gnoll's attention.  Too late, he whirled his head around to see his new attacker.  Jyslyn slashed with her borrowed dagger, the blade cutting a blood red line on the gnoll's neck.  He dropped his sword to grasp at the wound, unable to call a warning.  Jyslyn felt the spray of hot blood on her arm as she turned to her next target.

Before Jyslyn could step in, the gnoll fell, cut through by an elven blade.  Jyslyn stepped back, not wanting to become an "accidental" victim.  The surface elf stepped into the gap he created, trying to push back the fight.  Jyslyn side-stepped down the line.  Through gaps in the battle, she spied her healer, Kazimier, fighting beside his comrade-in-arms.  The two worked together, one feinting to give the other an opening.  Jyslyn allowed herself a moment of envy; neither of the the two surface elves would ever have to worry about the other taking advantage of the moment to kill him.  The thought was almost alien to her.

A roar brought Jyslyn back to the now.  She ducked as she spun around.  Another gnoll, bigger than the rest, led a cave bear on a rope lead.  Jyslyn risked a quick glance back at the surface elves; none could see the beast.  The head gnoll didn't act like he knew she was there.  Jyslyn saw several ways to escape.  And yet...  It's not what we choose, but why.

"Cave bear!" she shouted.

The head gnoll looked in her direction.  He dropped the rope lead and pointed at her, snarling something in his language.  While Jyslyn didn't understand the words, she understood the gist.  The bear lumbered towards her, covering the distance between them far faster than the elf could imagine.  Jyslyn backed up, running into a tree.  The burns on her back screamed at her, but she ignored the pain.  Pain now meant she was still alive.  She held up her dagger, still stained with the blood of the gnoll she killed.  Even if the bear killed her, it will know that it was in a fight.

The cave bear reared on its hind legs, towering over Jyslyn.  The dark elf looked for an opening, trying to find a way past its massive paws to cut it.  She danced out of the way of a swipe, dodging behind the tree.  The beast roared.  Jyslyn smelled rotting meat in its breath, but she kept her attention on the cave bear.  The bear walked in, snarling.  It reached around the tree with both arms.  Jyslyn ducked to avoid the long claws, then rolled away from the tree.  The bear fell to all fours as it followed her.  Jyslyn raised her dagger again, flicking the weapon at the bear to try keeping it away.  Ignoring the weapon, the cave bear charged in.  The dark elf stepped backward.  Her heel hit an exposed root; the dark elf fell on her back.  The bear raised a meaty paw.

A shield appeared over Jyslyn.  The bear struck the shield with a loud clang.  Jyslyn rolled away, running against a pair of legs.  Without looking, she crawled on hands and knees away, giving whoever was standing over her room to fight.  The bear reared again, but the elf, the two elves Jyslyn now saw, pressed their attack, sword and shield.  An arrow embedded itself in the bear's shoulder.  The beast cried out in pain and anger.  It swatted at the elves before it.

Away from the danger, Jyslyn got to her feet.  Somehow, she still had the dagger in her hand.  The bear stood against the elves before it, even with the wounds it was taking from sword and arrow.  Jyslyn focused on the bear, watching it move.  She raised the dagger, her arm back, ready to throw.  The bear dropped back to its feet, backing away from the onslaught.  Jyslyn moved, trying to find an opening.  One of the surface elves fell to the bear's paw.  Kazimier ran in to pull his comrade out of the way.  In that moment, Jyslyn saw her opening.

The dark elf hurled the dagger.  The blade flew true to her aim, over Kazimier's head and into the cave bear's eye.  The beast had no time to react.  All it did was collapse under its own weight.  It gave one last breath.

Jyslyn pointed at the leader of the gnolls, now running deeper into the forest.  Two of the surface elves started to follow, but were called back.  Jyslyn marched to the dead cave bear and pulled the dagger out.  All the surface elves standing pointed weapons, sword or nocked bow, at her.  She held the blade with her thumb and forefinger as she walked over to Kazimier.  "Thank you."

Kazimier took his dagger back.  "You've been able to understand us all this time."

"You just assumed I couldn't."  She crossed her wrists and offered them to Kazimier.

"Right."  He called for his comrade, Carrad.

Carrad arrived with another length of rope.  "Kazimier, Danen recognized the markings on the gnolls.  They're the Cleaven Eye Clan.  Danen's sketching the tattoos now."

"The Cleaven Eye?" Kazimier repeated.  "I thought they were south of here."

"They are," Jyslyn said,

"I need to bury our dead," Carrad said.  "Just one, Derluen."

Kazimier grimaced.  "I will send praryers to the Lightbringer for him."  As Carrad returned to his duties, the priest turned back to Jyslyn.  "You could have run."

"It was one of my choices, yes."

"Are you going to run?"

"I am your prisoner.  I will not escape."

Next Week:
Elsewhere, other plots begin.