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Every now and then, you read something or hear someone say something and a light-bulb of self-recognition goes on. "Ah-HA! That's me! Someone else understands what I'm like! Wow! I'm glad someone figured out how to put that into words!" It's a fun and comforting feeling. It happened to me recently while reading a serial fiction story, "Capricious" by Julie Cox. It struck me so strongly that I want to quote the relevant scene here, so I don't forget it/lose the reference.

"Sally don’t want to be seduced, Luke. She wants to be romanced. There’s a difference. And because it’s Sally, what she finds romantic is gonna be different than most girls.”

“Well, why don’t you just tell me what she wants, since you’re suddenly the expert.”

Orson stroked his mustache while he thought. He picked up the TV remote and muted the football game they were watching before turning toward Luke, fingers steepled. “Some girls fantasize about a beautiful man, faraway adventures, grand romantic gestures, obsessive pursuit, expensive gifts. But the most romantic thing you could do for Sally would be to show up with a sensible ring, a big bunch of wildflowers, your toolbox, your health insurance card, a copy of your credit report, and your most recent pay stub.”

Luke stared at Orson with a growing fire in his throat. “You saying Sally’s a gold digger?”

“Far from it. I’m just saying she has control of her heart where most girls don’t. She’s not going to fall for you just because she wants you, Luke. And she does, I think we can all agree on that. But remember she got left high and dry by a man who strung her along for years. Sally wants someone she knows will be able to take care of her, will be there for her. She wants babies and security and someone who’s got her back. You know as well as I do that when a woman has children, she’s exposing herself to a shit ton more danger than the man is. Motherhood is the most expensive occupation in the world, and it’s not just the expense of the children that makes it so. By showing Sally you can and will look after her, you’re saying the most romantic thing of all: that you’re man enough to shoulder the terrible burden and wondrous joy of a family, with her.”

As a bonus, the author of this story is a geeky woman who writes fiction in between caring for her farming family and their critters... including their goats. Geek-writer-farmer gals FTW =)

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I've finally got a complete, continuous draft of the first several opening chapters of "The Elemental Magician" written. It's very much a rough draft, though, so I've spent some quality time editing the last few days. If you've got a moment, I've posted the opening chapter below and would dearly appreciate some feedback. Mostly, I'd like to know if this opening would be enough for you to keep reading, or if it doesn't interest you. 

(A side note: bits marked with 'tk' and/or in <> are pieces to be filled in later, generally a name I need to fill in).

The Elemental Magician


“Hey, Elemental!  The chief wants you!”

Eli sighed at summons.  So much for getting this translation done, he thought as he deftly rolled up the scroll.  I hope it isn’t anything too bad.  I haven’t felt even a whisper of magic from the Asp, and he’s the one off with the rest of the company fighting down by that bridge.

“What is it, Jamshid?” Eli asked the other young man.  Both were clad in the leather and bronze armor that all the warriors in the mercenary camp wore, but where Eli had rounded eyes and jaw under a mop of dark curls, Jamshid’s face was all angles framed by glossy black hair in loose braids.

“He didn’t say, only that you should whip it over to him.  But,” Jamshid added with cheery grin that Eli had long since learned to associate with I’m not going to like this, “I did see a messenger came galloping down from the city right before the chief started yelling at me to find you.”

“Shit,” Eli muttered, “I’m moving.”  He ducked inside a felt-walled tent, tucking the scroll into a large cedar chest and grabbing his bronze sword in its scabbard.

“Chief’s at his tent,” Jamshid said, waiting to hike back that way with the magician.  

“So much for you getting a turn on a nice, quiet guard shift, huh?” Eli said sympathetically.

“Hah, yeah.”  He shrugged and flashed a broad grin.  “My hand of warriors ends up working with you or the Asp often enough, I figure odds are good I’m going to get dragged into this too.  Camp guarding is boring anyway!”  

Eli grinned back at him and then shook his head at his friend.  They had both fought in the Skathoi troop of mercenaries for five years now, but Jamshid was one of the nomadic tribesmen that formed the majority of the company, not a foreigner like Eli.

“What is it about being ‘born on a horse with a bow in hand’ that makes you so hungry for the guts and glory shit?” he asked Jamshid dryly.

The Skathoi laughed.  “You keep asking that, when the answer is obvious.  We are swifter, stronger, and more noble than any civilization!  Your glorious self excepted, of course,” he added, earning rolled eyes from Eli.  “The guts and glory is how we demonstrate this to ignorant mud tillers.  Isn’t that so, Chief?”

Chief Hurar grunted in response as the two young men approached.  “Jamshid, go get your hand and Sarosh’s mounted up, and bring the Elemental’s mule.”  Jamshid saluted with thumb-over-breastbone and trotted off, still grinning.  “Elemental, this is tk<Rhudelinsimessengertobenamedlater>.”

Eli nodded to the messenger.  Standing in the midst of several mercenaries clustered around the chief, the Rhudelinsi looked exotic in his long tunic belted over fringed leather breeches.  The Skathoi uniformly wore loose shirts and high-waisted sashes in eye-watering colors with their woolen trousers.  Even their foreign warriors like Eli wore the same; the chief only stood out due to more gold among his ornaments and the grey streaks in his braids.

“Where am I going, Chief?” Eli asked.  Looking past the mountain city clothes, he studied the deep lines of worry cut in the Rhudelinsi’s ruddy face.

The chief frowned.  “You gonna have any problems scouting today?  Far range, looking for a raiding party.”

Eli shook his head.  “Not a problem, sir, I’m well-rested for the end of a campaign season.  A raiding party, no other details?”

At the chief’s glance, the Rhudelinsi messenger spoke up.  “The Brynnmarsh envoy - their princess - left with her escort to return home this morning.  Less than a water-mark ago, one of her guards returned, injured and having ridden his horse to lameness.”

Eli grimaced.  

“A Valgish warband ambushed them on the road, the guard was clear on that,” the Rhudelinsi man continued, nodding at Eli’s reaction.  “He said he was in the rearguard, and they tried to get the princess off the wagon to bolt back here once they realized they’d been trapped.  Didn’t work, unfortunately, but he decided getting help soonest was better than riding back into an ambush.”

“Good thing he did,” Eli muttered.  “Any idea how many Valgish there were?  Mounted or on foot?”

“Mounted, according to the guard.  He wasn’t sure on numbers but it was enough to overwhelm their escort of thirty.  Best guess would be one of their cavalry companies.”

“So anywhere from forty to sixty,” Eli said thoughtfully.  After breaking the Valgish siege on Rhudelin this summer and skirmishing with their army into the early mountain autumn, he was as familiar as the rest of the mercenary company with the enemy’s typical units.  “Even with all the iron around here, I can find a group that big.”

“What about intercepting them?” the chief added, studying Eli with narrowed eyes.

“By myself?  I...”  He stopped, staring at Hurar.  Only four hands here on watch for the whole camp and the wounded here... “I can't leave and take half the camp guard!”

The grey-stubbled chieftain smiled grimly. "The Valgish had more than one arrow in their quiver today, yes,” he acknowledged.  “They’ve got most of our men and the Asp tied up with their assault on the trade road bridge, and kidnapped the princess at the same time. It might be that they plan to raid our camp, too, but that's risk I'm willing to take. Besides,” he added with a dismissive wave of his hand, "You and the Asp have left standing wards, and I'll borrow some Rhudelinsi grunts if I need 'em to fill out the hands of walking wounded."

"Sir, I'd be happy to take that request straight to Prince Urien," the messenger said quickly, hope warring with the anxiety still pinching his expression. The chief acknowledged the offer with a nod, but his attention remained on Eli.

“Yessir.  Still, me and two hands alone...”  Eli drew a slow breath, eyeing the messenger's worried expression again.  “Do you want me to ask the elemental spirits if they’ll help?”

The chief nodded, his mouth pursing in a thin line.  “I’d offer to pay them if I thought it would help.”  He held up a hand before Eli could say anything.  “I know, lad.  They’ve traveled with us for three years now, I know that isn’t how they work, but you understand what I’m saying.  Ask them.”

“Yessir.”  Eli saluted the chief as he stepped back from the cluster of men.  Ignoring the coming and going of more warriors, and the intent curiosity of the Rhudelinsi messenger, he knelt by the coals left from the chief’s cooking fire.  He rested his hands on the still warm, soot-stained dirt and closed his eyes.  Focusing on the extra sense every magician had to feel the power flows around them, he turned that kenning ability inward toward the heat of his own blood and the solidity of his bones.

Enora, Stones-for-Bones, he thought as he sank his awareness into his twin affinities for fire and earth, If you are willing and able, I and the Skathoi ask for your help.  

He knelt silently, breathing slow and deep as he kenned within himself until he felt two different flows of magic brush against his.  Opening his eyes, he stood and brushed off his hands.

“They’re coming.”

The chief nodded calmly, but the Rhudelinsi messenger’s eyes went wide as the cook fire coals spat a cherry red spark of flame that grew into a tiny, twilight-orange humanoid with solid black eyes.  Vaguely feminine despite the lack of anything resembling hair and wearing a simple black shift that covered only minimal curves, the foot-high spirit of elemental fire alighted on Eli’s shoulder.

Beside Eli, the soil rippled and hissed as a masculine form rose up next to the young man.  The stocky earth elemental spirit also had solid black eyes but stood taller than everyone else gathered by the chief, looking as if a granite boulder had come to life and donned black trousers.

“Thank you for coming, my friends,” Eli said with a warm smile that faded into sobriety as he explained the situation to them.  They listened without comment, glancing occasionally at the chief and the bewildered messenger.  He paused when he finished, and then waited silently for the magic creatures’ answers.

* * * *

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Well, "The Drama" is still making my life... not very fun to put it mildly, but I've also gotten the most consistent writing done EVER in my life, including a couple weeks of 900-1000+ words recently. From November through now I've got a little over 10,000 words of The Elemental Magician written, not all in order, and recently I've got what I think will be the first two chapters/posts done. They're sort of sitting on the back-burner while I keep writing, and every couple days I go back to them with the benefit of a little more distance and do a little bit of editing. Definitely pleased with how this draft of EM is going!

Now if only I could get the rest of my life to improve like that... *sigh*
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So it turns out this past Jan was probably one of the most unpleasant in my life (please and thank you), and apparently Drama can fuck with your plans even when you don't think it will. In short, I sure as hell didn't get 4000 more words written. But I'm poking at it again, so hopefully February will be a better month all around, both for writing and for everything else.
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Trying to determine if I'm really making progress. According to , I wrote 295 words the week ending 1/1/12 and 828 words the week ending 1/8. I know I wrote over a thousand words this past week although the weekly tally hasn't been posted yet there (nice of someone else to do the math for me). So that's over 2000 words in half a month... I don't think 4000 words a month is going to cut it =( OTOH, it sure beats 0 words! And the short term trend in an upward direction, at least. I did write almost 6000 words in November for NaNoWriMo as well, although December was pretty much a wash.

So, 4000-6000 words a month? And when I edit them, I know the final tally of "words worth sharing" will be significantly less, maybe as much as 50%. That would be 2000-3000 "good" words a month, which is... one post's worth, maybe two. Of course if I don't end up cutting such a high percentage, then it's much more easily two posts a month. But then I'll lose writing energy to editing....

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I did a question (or two)-a-day style character development meme over on my main writing site for the protagonist of the Elemental Magician, Eli. If you've been reading it aleady, I just posted the last of the questions here. If you haven't read it yet, the series starts here and you can read through the whole thing just by clicking the next button on each post =)
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I have a completed short story, ~20,000 words, that's "readable" now but really needs some solid editing love from me before I'd post it for all to see. (Editing it would probably drop the word count total quite a bit, maybe by 25%).

I also have a serialized-novel-to-be that I'm working on... I don't write as much as I should, but I'm working on that, and so far I'm around 7000 words with it. Everything I've written so far would also need serious editing love before I'd post it.

I'm pretty sure I should just keep writing on the novel-to-be until I have something like 15,000-20,000 words in it, do the editing on it, and then start posting it as I continue to write more. However, I'm an impatient soul, so a part of me wants to post something, anything, to get people reading, even though editing the completed short would probably stop me from writing the novel for the duration. Still... I want to get the novel story told. I want to get a big pile of it written, so it can get edited and give me a nice big backlog to work under safely when I finally do start posting it. So I should write it...

Just airing my thoughts. Input welcome if you have any.

For reference: completed short is "The Prince's Hunt" and the serialized novel is "The Elemental Magician"
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I'm not inventing languages out of whole cloth for "The Elemental Magician" and I don't plan on using a lot of "untranslated" dialogue or terminology in the novel, but every foriegn culture does have a few lanaguage artifacts worth noting.


In EM, the largest culture block is Malak, roughly translatable as "(The Land of) Kings". (The word 'king' singular would be melk, I think). It's a region with a common cultural background divvied up amongst an assortment of kingdoms and city-states that at various times get subsumed into one empire or another. The lingua franca for this region and much of the borderlands they trade with is Atenish. Atenish comes from Aten, one of the aforementioned kingdoms in Malak that was repeatedly politically dominant through the region's history although currently not so much.

Things I've done with Atenish:
1) The vocabulary is very loosely cribbed from semitic languages and really really ancient semitic-speaking language cultures (we're talking the days of Tyre and Sidon)
1b) As a result, the stems of some words are just the consonants (melk, malak)
2) Some adjective forms are formed with the suffix -oi (Malak, Malakoi; Skath, Skatoi)
3) Some adjective forms the suffix -(i)sh (Aten, Atenish; Brynnmar, Brynnmarsh)
4) I have one city, Rhudelin, where I've been using the adjective form -si (Rhudelin, Rhudelinsi)

I need some sort of rule governing those variable adjective forms. I'm thinking that the neutral/bare/archaic adjectival form is something like *-ois, and then it got modified depending on what sound it's following and possibly also syllable number.

Malak: disyllable, -(plosive) = *Malakois ~> -oi
Skath: monosyllable, -(fricative) = *Skathois ~> -oi
Aten: disyllable, -(nasal) = *Atenois ~> -ish
Brynnmar: disyllable, -(approximant) = *Brynnmarois ~> -sh
Rhudelin: trisyllable, -(nasal) = *Rhudelinois ~> -si

Needs more thinking, so leaving this here as a reference for now. More later.

Updated: from here on out, I'm changing Aten to Aden to avoid confusion with Egyptian religion. Aden would then generate the adjective "Adenish".

Think I've got the rules figured out now.
-oi is bare form, follows the typical consonants (plosives, fricatives)
-ish is the softened form that follows vowels and "vowelish" sounds (vowels, nasals, approximants)
-sh is a subtype of the softened form that follows rhotics
-si is a subtype of the softened form that occurs when the stem is three syllables or more.
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Decided I'll keep posting daily word counts here once NaNoWriMo is over. It keeps me honest and needing to write something every day, even if it seems I'm only managed only 150-250 words a day so far. Oh well... I keep telling myself that's still a LOT more than zero words a day, and so I really need to just keep pecking away if I ever want something for people to read.



Nov. 24th, 2011 09:46 pm
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initial post, testing ground...
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