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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Celebrating... A Wonderful New Book: the Publication of Edith, Fair as a Swan

James Hockey, Author
Books, to me, are a source of joy.  One of the most wonderful emotions that a reader can experience is the feeling that comes when they have in their hands (or on their e-reader) a book by someone whose writing they love, whose tale-telling abilities they respect, and whose prior work sits on their shelves, sources of periodic reading and enjoyment.  And if the new book happens to be the latest in a series, so much the better.

With those pleasures in mind, I am celebrating, today, the release of James M. Hockey's newest book, Edith, Fair as a Swan.  A masterpiece by a master storyteller, the third in a series of stories that trace the origin of England in a most remarkable way.

But first, Edith:

                           England is Conquered
The King lies dead and mutilated.  Edith, the Queen, and her daughter, Gytha, have fled for their lives just ahead of their pursuers.  They can expect no mercy if they are captured.  By command of the victor, the Queen will be tortured and then burned at the stake and her daughter strangled in the public square.  It is 1066, and the cruel enemy hot on their heels is William the Bastard, Duke of Normandy, whom history now knows as 'The Conqueror.' Edith's path lies from ravaged England to  Kiev, from defeat and despair through peril to hope and healing.

The story itself is gripping, and it is a true story in most of its particulars (for writers of historical fiction do know that sometimes they have to fill in the gaps or, as Hockey says, 'Connect the dots')  We know that Edith was here; we know William sought her life...and we know some other important things about her story. But how did they come about?  Characters cross the pages, scoundrels, villains, heroes, knights, peasants - all play their parts in Edith's story.  And then there is Edith, herself, a queen - and a woman of courage and resolve.

In this sample, Edith and her daughter, accompanied by the narrator, are stopped by men with something less than honor in their hearts.  It is a deadly plight, until Edith steps forward:   
The hill stretched away to the east ahead of us. As we neared the top of the long, steady climb we stopped to catch our breath and rest our legs, for the walk uphill had tired us. It was a bad place to linger and we were foolish, but Asgar, the wisest of us was also the oldest and still weakened by his newly healed wounds. He was thus the most drained by the long climb and needed to rest.
I say foolish because as we topped the hill the road became flat, but also curved around a copse of trees standing out from the thick woods to our left. We were unsighted and could not see down the road ahead. If we could have seen what was around the curve we would have hidden off the road. But we could not see and thus did not hide, and what then happened happened and from that our journey was entirely changed.
As we moved on at a snail’s pace, still gathering our breath, so around the curve came a trio of Norman horsemen. From their arms and the shield of one I took them to be a miles and two serjeants-at-arms. They reined in when they saw us and stood watching us as we limped and shuffled along the road. Then at a word from the leader they spurred towards us.
They halted two horse lengths away. I grasped my quarterstaff, ready to fight, but a growl from Asgar told me to hold.
The horsemen leaned forward on their mounts’ necks to get a better look at us. There was a speedy passing of speech between them in their outlandish tongue. I did not need to understand their meaning. It was all too plain as they gazed steadily at Edith and Gytha.
Edith also understood only too well. To my horror she walked up to the leader and smiled at him, laying her hand on his thigh.
He exchanged a look with his serjeants and laughed then swinging his leg over his horse’s back dropped to the ground, walked around the beast’s head and stood grinning at Edith. The two serjeants, their harness and saddles creaking, also dismounted and stood holding the horses whilst their master sauntered towards the woman and her child. He stopped by Gytha and placed his hand under her chin, lifting her face and smiling down at her. As he put his arm around her shoulder and drew her to him he turned, spoke to the two serjeants and waved towards Asgar and me. They laughed and drew their swords.
Asgar was shuffling forward towards the serjeants, whining, ‘Please sirs, they are my son’s wife and daughter, have pity I beg you,’ edging closer to them all the while.
Edith was the entire mistress of the occasion. She placed her hand on the shoulder of the miles, drawing his attention away from the child. Sinking to her knees in front of him, causing his serjeants to pause, watching and smirking, she lifted the hem of his mail coat with her left hand. He thrust his hips at her and leered a look of pride and scorn.
Everything that followed happened so quickly I barely remember it. As Edith bent forward to perform her shameful task so her mantle caught beneath her knees. With an apologetic smile she reached behind her to free it and tugged at the mantle. Then, faster than I had ever seen a hand move, her right hand shot up under the mail coat with the speed and spite of a striking viper. The miles gave a shriek of pain as the bodkin dagger she had concealed in the waist of her mantle bit deep into his groin. His legs folded and he fell, to lie screaming, legs twitching and trembling, blood pooling under him. She leapt to her feet the dagger poised to strike at the serjeants.

The three novels are tied together by their narrator, a Gleeman, or Storyteller, named Bowdyn, who lives in the 1600's during a time of upheaval.  He came to the village battered, wounded, a victim of ruffians. Bowdyn is descended from an unbroken line of Gleemen, akin to the Seannachies or the Bards, those who kept the old, true stories, and told them in truth and with skill.
The Axe the Shield and the Triton
It is a time of hardship, upheaval and poverty.  On a fine, misty morning, a young man sees a small, horse-drawn cart making its slow way along the road, apparently without guidance.  What did it contain?  Treasure?  Possibly.  The young man hurries to the cart, looks inside and finds – not gold, but a man. 
This man, battered, robbed, near death, is a treasure, indeed.  The village learns that he is Bowdyn, a gleeman, a storyteller that recounts history.  One evening, the town gathers.  He is healed, it is time for him to tell a story.  Bowdyn begins to speak…

 `This story,' he said, `is old. It begins in a country east across the sea, nigh on five hundred years after the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ. To Africa it goes and back, and crossing the sea, ends up close by here. It begins with Creoda's grim tale'
And then something startling happened. The Gleeman sank back in his chair and by some cunning art of positioning, as he did so his face disappeared into the shadow. From the dark a voice spoke and I, for my part, felt the hair stand up on the back of my neck, for it was not the voice of Bowdyn that we heard, but that of a young boy, younger than I, for his voice had not yet deepened into manhood.
In the voice of the young man, Creoda, Bowdyn tells the tale of a people, adrift in the waning days of the Roman Empire, seeking safety from the Huns, gathering to make their way to a life together.  And in the course of the story, you return to the Gleeman.
I was not sure what to expect with this story. I was so pleased with what I got.  The sheer skill with which Hockey draws you into a story from the Dark Ages of Europe is impressive.  The story itself is excellent.
And here is a link to My Review

In the second book, Bowdyn again tells the tale of Creoda's people:

                       The Axe, the Shield, and The Halig Rood

Bowdyn the Gleeman holds court before the townsfolk. He speaks again of Creoda and the arrival of his people in Britain. In Creoda's calm voice, he moves through legend and history and tells of the forging of a strong people that steps into familiar legend.

Because the ford was narrow, Gewis shortened our line and put more of the doughties on the right flank. The century of the Second held our left. The Belgics were so slow in forming that he had the time to do this. And so we waited while our enemy formed up.

...They halted perhaps a man length away. We had brought no drum but showed our discipline with the unity of the beat of our spears and our billhooks against our shields, the measured rat-tat-tat we had used at Moridunum. More than that, our women did something that even now to think of it makes my blood run cold and goose bumps rise on my flesh. It was a trick they said they had learned from Sefu, using their voices and their tongues, which gave out a high-pitched warbling note from one hundred throats. It was a note like that of some great wyrm, of such godlike triumph that I could see the Belgics flinching and their eyes widening with fear. At that point, following Lothar, we took two quick paces forward and our shields clashed as our spears flashed. For a while the lines locked, but we had the advantage: the billhooks arced overhead and their pointed blades sliced into faces, arms and shoulders, drawing attention and guard away from our flashing spears.

Here is a link to The Axe, the Shield and The Halig Rood
And a link to my review

I have spent a longer time with this post than I usually do.  It is a mark of my enjoyment of these stories.  They have substance, wisdom, adventure and truth to them.  They are, truly, historical fiction that keeps its ties to history.

I am pasting links to James Hockey's website.  There is more there to read and enjoy, including information about the Master Mariner, himself.  Not a dull paragraph there:


Visualizing a Scene: It's Good if You Can Do It...

'Artist Sketching' by Constable 
I tend to be visually oriented.  Something, whether a graphic or an item, can serve to express and summarize my thoughts about a scene, a character, a setting.  Sometimes things fall beautifully into place.  And sometimes they...just...don't.  But ah, they do come close at times.  I have a scene in my Work In Progress in which one of the characters, Larouche, a 7 year old street urchin, encounters 'Monseigneur', his name for a high-ranking police officer that he met in the first book of the series, initially hated, and grew to like and admire in the course of the story.  The growth of their liking is a theme throughout the series, and this scene, the second time they have actually come face to face, is pivotal.  The child, who has found a position at a small bistro as a hired boy, is sweeping the yard: 

**   **   **
         Larouche watched as Jean-Claude led the big gray horse from the stable.  Nice-looking fellow, he thought. Tall, strong: maybe some Percheron in him? His dark coat dappled down to white with a white mane and tail. Elegant and strong, Larouche thought, and remembered the horses ridden by the helmeted officers during reviews.  This one could easily be one of those mounts.
The horse had been gazing toward the door of the taproom.  He raised his head and nickered as Monseigneur emerged into the early afternoon light.
Larouche drew back against the wall, suddenly breathless.  The row of bushes was beside him, offering shelter and concealment.  He lifted his chin, stayed where he was, and watched.
Monseigneur was in uniform, the sun flashing from the gold-washed bronze buttons of his coat, the dark blue cloth rich in the sunlight.  A brief conversation with Jean-Claude... Nods all around, and Monseigneur came farther into the stable yard.  He was bareheaded, the cocked hat tucked under his left arm. Larouche could see the sunlight glinting on strands of silver in his dark hair. Monseigneur getting old? The thought sat oddly, as though it expressed something Larouche did not want to be true.
The gray was tossing his head. He settled as Monseigneur approached, took out a small snuffbox and shook some candies into his palm.
The gray's ears flicked back and forth. He lowered his lead to lip at the treats.
"He's ready for a good trot," Monseigneur said. Larouche caught the accent again. "I will be obliging him shortly." He took the reins from Jean-Claude, smiled as the man cupped his hands for a leg up, and sprang into the saddle.
Larouche watched Monseigneur slide his feet into the stirrups and gather the reins. The hazel eyes settled on his, caught and held. Larouche thought it was like the time Monseigneur had seized him by the ear. No escape possible. But did he want to escape?
He raised his eyes and smiled as the moment deepened, lengthened. Larouche realized that Monseigneur was as caught as he was, unable to break the connection, unable to speak.
...and then Larouche found that he could draw breath and take a step forward, and he saw that Monseigneur was also leaning toward him, smiling and stretching out his hand—
"Sir!"  The voice, strident and anxious, cut the connection between them.
Monseigneur's hand fell to his thigh as he turned, frowning. "What is it, Trinchard?"
"A mob assembled! They are threatening headquarters!"
"What? When was this?" 
"Twenty minutes ago—a half hour! We have been seeking you all this time!"
Monseigneur's frown deepened. "You have found me," he said. "Lead me there."
Larouche watched Monseigneur gather his reins, and then, almost as though he were drawn, turn back toward Larouche.
Their eyes met, held for a long moment.
Monseigneur's lips parted as though he meant to speak. Larouche waited. But then he turned his horse and was in the street.
Well, that was that. Larouche took up the broom he had laid aside and started sweeping the leaves away.
          The clack of iron on cobblestone made him look up..
The gray was snuffling at the remains of the ivy on the post while Monseigneur watched Larouche with a warm smile. Larouche could see a group of mounted officers in the street beyond.
Monseigneur leaned down, his hands braced on the pommel of his saddle. "I must go," he said. "I will be back. I don't know how soon that will be, but I will be back. I give you my word.."  His smile deepened.  "I want to speak with you.  Will you wait for me?"
Larouche nodded. "I'll be here," he said through an answering smile. "I promise."

Monseigneur bowed, touched his heel to his mount's side, just behind the girth. The horse turned on his haunches and they left at a gallop.

** ** ** 
I had the scene in my mind, I'd been to Paris and scouted the location of the tavern and the lay of the streets.  I knew what the hero looked like, and I knew what the little boy looked like.  In thumbing through images, I came across one that was...almost...perfect.
So close, and yet so far...
Almost.  It has some issues.  For starters:
1.  They meet in the courtyard of a small tavern, not the esplanade before the Tuileries palace, which was across from the Louvre. 
2.  Larouche, though better dressed than previously, and with a job, is still almost penniless.  He does not own a suit like this boy is wearing.
3.  While Malet (the hero) is in uniform in the scene, the police uniform of this era, while dark blue with a red front panel, gold buttons, and a high collar like this one, it also had a cravat.  The uniform coat would have covered his abdomen. The chicken guts ('aiguilettes' - can you tell I'm a military brat?) would not be worn by him.  The bearskin shako would have been worn by Malet in the artillery during his service between 1810 - 1814.  The Police of this era also wore the bearskins.  That stopped after the fall of Napoleon. Breeches and waistcoat would have been a lighter buff for police.
4.  The rider appears to be sporting a queue.  Malet never approved of them.  They are a good way to be disabled and killed (just grab that ponytail and hold on) and they were no longer worn in the military after about 1806.
5.  The horse is black.  Malet's preferred mount in the book is what they call a 'white dapple' with white mane and tail and a dark coat that dapples down to white.
I did bring the horseman and the child 'forward' by making the other rider and the crowd in the background paler (adjusting opacity; you can see it if you look).  I am toying with fiddling with the image, removing the shako, adjusting the uniform...  Just for my own amusement, you understand...
Maybe I'll update this post if I succeed.  (For those who are curious, the series is The Orphan's Tale, and I am working on the second installment.)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Celebrating a perfectly horrible day... (Celebrations, October 24, 2014)

Another Friday is here and I am posting in VikLit's Celebrations hop.  We pause every Friday (as possible) and take some time to notice the small celebrations that we somehow overlook.  Friends, food, events in our lives - we all share.   If you want to join, the details are at the bottom of this page.

I am celebrating a perfectly horrible day (I am writing this Thursday).  It has been a bad day.  The workday was notable for being tiring.  I read ignorant comments on a blog post.   Other things happened that are serious and expensive.

And I just know that I will experience once more that truly wonderful moment that happens the morning after a bad day, when you first wake up, open your eyes, and for a breath of time it's as though nothing happened.  And then you remember. 

I am so thrilled.

So, why am I celebrating?  Well, because as bad as the day has been, no one died, no one turned on me, I have my health, and I'm not out on the street.  There are others who would not mind having my terrible day just as long as their situation was similar to mine: my health, a job that pays me, my freedom and my friends.

That is what I am celebrating.  The fact that my bad day, which is, to me, certainly bad enough, is nothing compared to what others have had to put up with every day.

I think perhaps I am blessed.

What are you celebrating?  Why not join us?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Run-On Sentences Illustrated


Based on what people say to me (some of them whining), we live in the age of the telegram.  Or do I mean the Tweet?  Brevity is crucial, and the spaces between the words are more important than the words.  That, at least, is some of the grumbling I have heard from colleagues who are unhappy about having their scenes pruned.

We all have those scenes we just love to death.  We don't want to deprive our generous readers, who have paid their good money and committed their precious time to purchase and read our efforts.  They do deserve the best!  Why deprive them of our wonderful work?

I'm overstating, of course, though I admit to a twinge when I concluded that a perfectly delicious scene of one of my MC's, who was an impressive but sometimes sobersided fellow, in which he drank an entire bottle of liquor and had a drunken reverie that had had me rolling on the floor, almost literally, was not needed in my story.  Sigh.  It is hard.

...but what if you are so adored an author, you can write monstrous scenes - monstrous in length and complexity, I mean - with no one curling a lip?  Or - let's daydream really outrageously - what if we are so idolized and admired, we can churn out a sentence of nearly a thousand words - and have it printed?  What about that?  Did it ever happen? 
Victor Hugo, hands to face

Yes, it did.  And to salve the sensibilities of all authors who hate to see a single deathless word deleted, I am putting up here the stuff of which daydreams are made, courtesy of Victor Hugo, who is referring to the then (in his book, Les Miserables) King of France.  Hugo was quite the iconoclast, but my mind boggles that even he was able to pass off an eight hundred-plus word sentence with no one screaming bloody murder.  And I think he did it out of a sense of mischief.

Here it is, and lest the flow (flood?  torrent?  spate?) of words exhaust us all, I am interspersing it with depictions of the subject:, who is an historical character that I happen to admire very sincerely:

Louis-Philippe, King of France
“The son of a father to whom history will accord certain attenuating circumstances, but also as worthy of esteem as that father had been of blame; possessing all private virtues and many public virtues; careful of his health, of his fortune, of his person, of his affairs, knowing the value of a minute and not always the value of a year; sober, serene, peaceable, patient; a good man and a good prince; sleeping with his wife, and having in his palace lackeys charged with the duty of showing the conjugal bed to the bourgeois, an ostentation of the regular sleeping-apartment which had become useful after the former illegitimate displays of the elder branch; knowing all the languages of Europe, and, what is more rare, all the languages of all interests, and speaking them; an admirable representative of the “middle class,” but outstripping it, and in every way greater than it; possessing excellent sense, while appreciating the blood from which he had sprung, counting most of all on his intrinsic worth, and, on the question of his race, very particular, declaring himself Orleans and not Bourbon; thoroughly the first Prince of the Blood Royal while he was still only a Serene Highness, but a frank bourgeois from the day he became king; diffuse in public, concise in private; reputed, but not proved to be a miser; at bottom, one of those economists who are readily prodigal at their own fancy or duty; lettered, but not very sensitive to
letters; a gentleman, but not a chevalier; simple, calm, and strong; adored by his family and his household; a fascinating talker, an undeceived statesman, inwardly cold, dominated by immediate interest, always governing at the shortest range, incapable of rancor and of gratitude, making use without mercy of superiority on mediocrity, clever in getting parliamentary majorities to put in the wrong those mysterious unanimities which mutter dully under thrones; unreserved, sometimes imprudent in his lack of reserve, but with marvelous address in that imprudence; fertile in expedients, in countenances, in masks; making France fear Europe and Europe France! Incontestably fond of his country, but preferring his family; assuming more domination than authority and more authority than dignity, a disposition which has this unfortunate property, that as it turns everything to success, it admits of ruse and does not absolutely repudiate baseness, but which has this valuable side, that it preserves politics from violent
shocks, the state from fractures, and society from catastrophes; minute, correct, vigilant, attentive, sagacious, indefatigable; contradicting himself at times and giving himself the lie; bold against Austria at Ancona, obstinate against England in Spain, bombarding Antwerp, and paying off Pritchard; singing the Marseillaise with conviction, inaccessible to despondency, to lassitude, to the taste for the beautiful and the ideal, to daring generosity, to Utopia, to chimeras, to wrath, to vanity, to fear; possessing all the forms of personal intrepidity; a general at Valmy; a soldier at Jemappes; attacked eight times by regicides and always smiling; brave as a grenadier, courageous as a thinker; uneasy only in the face of the chances of a European shaking up, and unfitted for great political adventures; always ready to risk his life, never his work; disguising his will in influence, in order that he might be obeyed as an intelligence rather than as a king; endowed with observation and not with divination; not very attentive to minds, but knowing men, that is to say requiring to see in order to judge; prompt and penetrating good sense, practical wisdom, easy speech, prodigious memory; drawing incessantly on this memory, his only point of resemblance with Caesar, Alexander, and Napoleon; knowing

deeds, facts, details, dates, proper names, ignorant of tendencies, passions, the diverse geniuses of the crowd, the interior aspirations, the hidden and obscure uprisings of souls, in a word, all that can be designated as the invisible currents of
consciences; accepted by the surface, but little in accord with France lower down; extricating himself by dint of tact; governing too much and not enough; his own first minister; excellent at creating out of the pettiness of realities an obstacle to the immensity of ideas; mingling a genuine creative faculty of civilization, of order and organization, an indescribable spirit of proceedings and chicanery, the founder and lawyer of a dynasty; having something of Charlemagne and something of an attorney; in short, a lofty and original figure, a prince who understood how to create authority in spite of the uneasiness of France, and power in spite of the jealousy of Europe, — Louis Philippe will be classed among the eminent men of his century, and would be ranked among the most illustrious governors of history had he loved glory but a little, and if he had had the sentiment of what is great to the same degree as the feeling for what is useful.” 

**   **   **

Inspector Javert Editorializes
I can only imagine the hue and cry (or, more likely, the spate of sneers) that would greet any writer who attempted to match that run-on sentence, deliberate though it must have been. I can't imagine Stephen King attempting it.  I have read some books that seemed unending, but they were (mostly) equipped with paragraphs and reasonable sentences.  What boggles my mind, however, is learning that there is a 1,400 word sentence (not in a European language) that beats this one by nearly double.  It is enough to make even the most toughened character cringe.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Celebrations, October 17, 2014 - of Sheep, knitters and heaven...

Welcome to our Celebration of the Small Things, a blog hop started by Viklit (address below) to pause to appreciate the small things that make us smile.  It doesn't have to be something big, which is why she chose the name.  Whatever makes you smile, whatever has happened that you like to savor or share.  If you want to join, the details are at the bottom of tis page.

I'm celebrating a bit of anticipation:  I am attending the New York State Sheep and Wool Festival (click for the site), held in the pretty town of Rhinebeck NY.  I knit from time to time, have lots of friends who knit, crochet, weave, spin, raise sheep, shear sheep, always have knitting needles stuck behind their ears, and generally act like crazy people having a lot of fun. 

I enjoy strolling and watching the  people, and fingering yarn and dreaming of maybe taking some time from editing and polishing The Orphan's Tale, Book II to take that gorgeous tone-on-tone RED yarn and actually KNIT something...  Sigh.  There's a fairway with hot dogs and fries...  And I don't have to drive there for the first time in years.

I've so enjoyed this hop, I decided to post a little photographic interpretation of a favorite quote.  I wish the photos were actually mine, but I hope they make you smile.

Have a wonderful weekend!

You gotta dance like there's nobody looking...

Love like you'll never be hurt...

Sing like there's nobody listening

Live like it's heaven on earth

- William R Purkey

Ending a Dry Spell

Dry spots are the worst.  I think anyone who has done anything has encountered them.  They are a fact of human endeavor, I think.  How to break them?

I had an interesting experience in it...

I'd been in a dry spot for about ten years. Or, if you prefer, I had an excruciating case of 'writer's block'.  It happens, and it can be devastating.

When I first started writing for the sheer joy of telling stories, the ideas came tumbling over each other.  I wrote, rewrote, rethought, shifted plot lines and timelines, deepened characters - in short, wallowed.  I was younger, I had the energy, everything was going well in my life (I wouldn't mind being in my early twenties again).  I had an immense output and an ego to match.

Creating, for me, is the most wonderful part of writing.  Forming stories with my own energy and skill, channelling the flood of ideas, molding them, riding the flow - it's intoxicating, ravishing, irresistible.  And it accounts for only a small portion of the time that a writer spends at his craft.  Thomas Edison said,  "Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration."  Definitely true, but ah! that one percent--!

That is how it was when I first started writing with all my strength.  I would catch the spark of an idea and go with it, I wouldn't stop - how could I when it was so obviously what I was made to do?  (I was rather young then.)  I remember working on one story - I'm finishing it up after a long hiatus, since I burned myself out on it - where I had produced perhaps 200 pages of manuscript and then decided that a specific character's development needed to go in another direction.  I ripped the plot line apart, redid it, rewrote it - it was a massive effort, and I didn't blink.

At that time I lacked a computer with electronic storage capability.  My early manuscripts were put in binders.  The stories and society underlying those early manuscripts changed and evolved to the point where the manuscripts were worthless except as a record of where I started.  In the course of moving six or seven times over the years they were packed away and forgotten.  It didn't matter - I'd moved on.

At any given time I was generally working on up to three projects.  I would pick away at one if I hit a dry spot with the other.  If the first one took fire, I could put the second aside and worked on the first.  It helped to cut down on the almost despairing feel that you get when a project is finished.  But there is a cost: you can't sustain that level of activity for very long.

For one thing, life gets in the way, and I had not (at that time) learned to nurture my craft, to bank the fires, so to speak, against a cold night.  Things happened outside my writing world that led to pulling up stakes and moving elsewhere.  Other concerns intruded, and I lost touch.  The spark was gone.  Years passed and I looked at what I thought was the wreckage of my writing.

I hadn't stopped writing, actually.  I'd kept my hand in.  I used words with my work, wrote articles for clubs, did various types of writing,  but nothing in the line I loved.  It was like trying to run a marathon with a sprained ankle.  I'd produce a couple of pages, maybe a note or two in my notebook, but nothing more.  The energy just wasn't there.   I thought it might come back; things were changing, I was starting to feel it, but still...

And then, going through the chaos that is known as the shelves in my garage, I opened a box and found my three earliest manuscripts.   They had been the raw material for several other story lines that I still have going (and near completion) but they themselves had been so altered, adjusted, tweaked, rewritten, they were useless.  On top of that, since they were manuscript pages, I'd have to retype about six hundred (1.5 space 10 pt) manuscript pages  if I had wanted to try to salvage the story line.  Um...  No.

I frowned at them, and then shook my head, toying with the notion of throwing them out, but then I hesitated.  Ah, yes, I thought,  It could be fun to reread these.

I took them inside, sat down, put my feet up and read.  Gosh, I'd been green then.  Lots of energy, but not a lot of polish.  I also didn't know as much about life then.

I leafed through them, read...  Yes, all those issues, but still...  Not too bad.

I came to a specific scene involving three characters.  One character, who had started out (originally) as a villain, had morphed into a hero.  In fact, I'd fallen in love with  him (did you read my post about 'Author's Pets'?) but had enough subtlety not to ram him down a reader's throat.  In this scene, the two heroes, one of them your typical medieval-type heroic hero, had cornered the once-villain and all but accused him of treason.  The dialogue was involved, dramatic, there was a fine blast of fantasy, and then a sort of denouement in which the once-villain swears that he isn't one and the heroic hero leaves, which leaves the second intellectual hero and the once-villain to hash things out (they had known each other before).

The dialogue, let me add, was stilted.  At the time I'd written that, people spoke in measured, stately paragraphs.  Sitting and listening to one of my characters delivering a warlike address to the governing body would have put any spectator to sleep.

Oh, good grief!  I thought.  What a mess!  I can do better than THAT!

I fired up my computer, transcribed the chapter, and overhauled it, bringing it in line with what I knew now about those characters and their pre- and post-scene histories.  The raw emotion was tamed, the dialogue was far more polished, the scene was (if I may say so) splendidly done.  And in adjusting that scene, the consequences to the story altered.  One very likeable character did not die young; the once-villain was never a villain, and there was no need for him to die magnificently and tragically.  The Heroic Hero got his ears clipped in a most satisfying way, and the scene itself ended up being amusing for me, rather than touching.

Here is part of it.  The Healer (who doesn't appear directly in this snippet) is the Intellectual Hero.  Sinthai is the Heroic Hero.  Lokathi (also known as 'Haldann') is the once-villain.  To 'Open' is a sort of teleportation, rather like 'beaming up', that I discarded fairly quickly after I first wrote this manuscript.
     The sparkle deepened to a flicker and then a blaze.  The blaze intensified to the sound of a rising gale.  Sinthai pushed away, his attention riveted on the two pairs of eyes, dark and pale, that were locked on  each other.   The wind rose to a shriek and the light slowly scattered, leaving Lokathi alone and white-faced in the suddenly dark room.  As Sinthai watched, Lokathi collapsed to his knees and doubled against the carpeted floor, his hands clenched at his temples.
     Sinthai jumped to his feet. "What happened?" he demanded. "What did you do with the Healer?"
     Lokathi raised his head and stared at him through half-blind eyes.  "What did I do with him-?"  he repeated through his teeth.  He pushed to a kneeling position, one hand braced against the floor, the other at his forehead.  "As far as I know, he's Opened to the Temple.  I wish him a happy arrival!"
     "But he didn't take you with him!"
     "He couldn't," Lokathi said. "I refused."
     Lokathi directed a pained glance at him through slitted eyes.  "I. Told.  Him.  No." he repeated slowly and clearly as he climbed to his feet and stood swaying, the heels of his hands pressed against his eyes.  "Oh, dear God..."
     "But you can't fight a Healer!"
     Lokathi lowered his hands and stared at him.  "Obviously you can, idiot!"  he retorted.  "…though if I'd known the result it would have-" 
     Sinthai's' eyes narrowed. "You just called me an idiot!"'
     Lokathi muttered something barely audible about shoes fitting.
     It was enough. Sinthai rose as Lokathi went slowly to Doren's chair and collapsed into it, shading his eyes and watching his approach with a derisive smile. 
     "I called you an idiot, Prince-General," he said through his teeth.  "I meant it with all my heart.  I've wanted to say it to you for a long time, and not just to you only.  You have a sword on you, you're welcome to take it and kill me this moment.  You've wanted to, seemingly, for some time, and I can tell you're ready right now.  At this moment I'd welcome it."
     Sinthai's color rose. "Don't talk nonsense," he said stiffly.  "If—"  He saw the painful rise and fall of Lokathi's breathing and broke off.  "You're in pain aren't you?  By god you don't lack courage!  But I still don't understand what just happened!"
     Lokathi closed his eyes. "What on earth is there to understand?" he sighed.  "I fought him off."
     "...And he did a very good job of it, Sinthai" Doren said, coming through the door.  "Well done, Haldann!  It appears we were wrong in some assumptions about you."
It flowed.  It worked.  I had the ability to take a really wretched piece of writing and fix it.  Of course I still couldn't salvage the manuscripts.  The story and characters had changed far, far beyond their original concept, but it had been good to wander through there and see what I'd done and what I could still do.

The most wonderful result, for me, was the discovery that the spark had never died.  It was there, I was ready, and I had my energy.

So, why did this little exercise suddenly make me able to write again?  I asked a friend who is a clinical psychologist.  "You touched that period of fecundity, and were able to reconnect with it!" she said.

Well, it sounds interesting, but I think it's something simpler than that.  I set out to exercise my muscles, so to speak.  And I discovered that I still had the touch, I just hadn't used it in the dry years.  I also learned that I must discipline myself more strongly.  Just going with what makes you sing might be satisfying, but you have to practice.  Take notes. Think things through...  Just do it.

But it's working...

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Come Pass the Time with a Charming Cad! (Giveaway time!)

Inge H Borg was featured on my blog a while back HERE.  We discussed her books and I'm glad to say that you can pick up one delicious novella free on your vendor of choice.

Edward is, oh, so very British; a dreamboat of a man, especially to the well-to-do middle-aged ladies he courts. He makes their fantasies come true. Their gifts are bestowed upon him freely as they blush from brow to breast. Unbeknownst to them, however, the dapper Edward has his own dreams full of deceit and mystery. And still, they believe this conman’s stories, and willingly support him.

Take Betsy, for instance. After sipping a bit more of her heady Chardonnay, the smitten Mrs. Bunting hits upon a brilliant idea. Would he take her ill husband’s place on a prepaid Egypt tour? In a strictly platonic sense, of course.

That week, the dapper Edward Esquire, reads several guide-books on Egypt (since he told Betsy that he is familiar with Cairo). Then he buys himself a pith helmet because, somehow, Edward has weaseled his way into Borg’s “Legends of the Winged Scarab” series, where he appears no longer quite as charming.

 Inge has a delicious way with words.  You can pick up a copy on:



 and visit her blogs Here and  Here

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Celebrations, October 10, 2014 - All things horses

Welcome to the latest Celebrate the Small Things blog hop, a brilliant idea conceived by Viklit (address below).  We post every Friday, and we tell of the things we are celebrating that week.  It can be something as small as not having to take a test and or as large as surviving cancer for yourself of a loved one.  The list of celebrations always makes me smile.   Why don't you join?  it might make you smile (See the bottom of the page for details)

I have been going at a rum for the past several months.  That means I have been overcommitted and am spinning my wheels.  I've disengaged (gosh, sounds like psycho-babble, doesn't it?) and am catching my breath.

This week I am celebrating one of the great loves of my life:  Horses.

Famous samurai with gray horse
Like a great many little girls, I fell in love with horses.  My first poem (which I am not posting here) had to do with a horse.  I remember I really wanted a dapple-gray horse with a white mane, which I would name Marigold.  Male?  Female?  I don't recall.

I thought the gray was perttier
I love them, though, and I enjoyed riding them.  I have Japanese woodblock prints of horses in my house.

I said, once, that I thought they were beautifully proportioned.  My listener said "hah!  If they were beautifully proportioned, their legs would be as thick as their bodies!"  I thought it a silly retort.  Unfortunately, I was a very respectful child and the speaker was a grownup.  Otherwise, I might have suggested that he adjust his own proportions until everything matched his torso.

just a bit much, I think...
Surprisingly, though I love horses, I never had horsey print clothing, never wore jewelry with snaffle bit adornments...

One of my favorites is in the sky most times of the year, if you know where to look and can remember that he is galloping along upside-down.  You can only see his head, neck and forequarters, but the constellation is unmistakable:

I do have a favorite figurine of a Lipizzaner from Vienna by way of a generous friend:

Gift from generous Austrian friend
Anyhow, today I am celebrating horses, beautifully proportioned, and always, always elegant!

...Did I mention that they are truly, truly silly?