Monday, June 30, 2014

The Great Weapons: Atop The Ramparts 11 (probably)

The barracks were a long, low structure tucked against the outer wall. It roof was dark slate, and its walls were the same silvery stone as the rest of the keep. It held a common room, where the guards could gather, and two floors of smaller rooms filled with bunks. It wasn't crowded, but Miledha found herself approaching it just as several of the other guards were coming down off the walls.

One of them caught sight of her and waited, nodding politely as she neared. It was one of the women, though it was hard to tell with the matching chainmail shirts and uniformly short hair. She was taller than Roberr, and almost as broad through the shoulders; she'd probably come up from the farms to serve in the guard. "I wanted to thank you for restoring Diessa," said the woman. "Brother Wend... he tries, but he's no healer."

Miledha blinked, trying to remember. She'd gone through the hospital with Brother Wend's apprentice, doing what she could for everyone all at once, and the names and faces ran together in her mind. Still... "There's no debt," she said. "I want the keep strong."

The woman shrugged. "It was well done, regardless, and I'm grateful, regardless. Diessa... she matters to me."

Miledha nodded at that, and even managed a faint smile. She'd been walking the walls for hours, trying to exhaust herself to a point where she could fall asleep. Now she was beginning to worry that she might hurt someone in her dreams, or give everyone in the barracks a share of her nightmares. "I'm glad to help."

"Word from the watch-captains is that we may be building earthworks and setting traps tomorrow." The guard sounded reflective. "It'll be make-work, like as not, to keep us busy and stop us thinking too much... but I can't say I'm sorry for it. Still... if you know of any traps to set that might be more effective than ours..."

Miledha stopped, suddenly and inexplicably delighted. She felt herself grin. "I believe I might manage something," she said. It would take work, and thought, and probably more work after that; but the opportunity to do something now, something that would hurt and confuse the enemy... That was too much to pass up.

The guard's lips quirked in an answering grin. "I'll look forward to seeing what you sow," she said. "For tonight... if you want some company while you sleep, you're welcome to share my bunk. Diessa will understand."

Miledha shook her head. "I've slept so long by myself, sleeping with anyone else just sounds... crowded."

"Then I wish you a good night's sleep," said the guard. "If you change your mind, ask after Ishua."

She turned, and continued towards the barracks. At the doorway she paused and turned back. "I'm glad you fight with us, Sha Miledha," she said.

Miledha, who was still baffled at holding any sort of title, just nodded. Then she followed Ishua into the barracks. Hard as it might be to relax, she still needed rest... and the prospect of setting traps for the Shadir had shifted her from frustration to anticipation. Looking forward to that, she could finally sleep.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Music: Steampunk Revolution

Yes, I know, I'm filling in my lack of writing time with a lot of music, and probably doing horrible things to the load time for the blog. Sorry - no time, no brain. I imagine the mix will change one I get this software all the way onto the latest version; until then, I'm sort of a Mock Zombie.

Today's selection is Abney Park, with "Steampunk Revolution". Don't just listen to the music; watch the video, and admire all the lovely costumes and constructions. I've picked this one because it sort of sums up the overall direction of their music, but it's far from the only fun or interesting thing they have. So, y'know, follow the related suggestions from youtube, or just go look 'em up. They're one of those bands that I think deserve a lot more attention than they get.



Also, more of the The Great Weapons next week. I guarantee it, because I already have at least one more section ready to go. Maybe two, if tonight goes well.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Great Weapons: Atop The Ramparts 10

It seemed like a perfectly sensible plan until he tried to explain it to his advisers. He'd started with Brother Wend, hoping that the scholar could help make the case to the others; but whatever the Order knew about the Great Weapons, Brother Wend was firmly of the opinion that if one of them was here, it should stay buried. Steward Arkiber, who had remained to help govern their supplies, had worried over the effect of Roberr's absence on the men under his command. Sir Berrn had pointed out that as the lord of Langoish Keep, in the face of the enemy he could not abandon the keep for any reason. Sha Lindlen had pointed out that the simple fact that the westerners were willing to wait might indicate that they thought they could retrieve the Great Gauntlet even if he wore it. Others chimed in as well, and they went on and on until Roberr began to wonder if maybe he was the crazy one.

Afterwards, Roberr had returned to the practice field. He'd intended to practice basic exercises with his father's sword, letting his own training and its guidance find a common ground. Instead, he found himself destroying the straw men used for cutting practice, with either the blade in his one hand or a particular gesture that he'd taught to his other hand.

"It didn't go well," said a soft voice, and Roberr turned his head to find Miledha sitting off to one side of the practice area. She was looking at his last target, which sagged and burned on its frame.

"No," he said, and sheathed the blade. It protested, but not with any particular vehemence; it was a soft whine, and no real resistance to the movement. He patted it softly, reassuring the weapon that he valued its abilities and its service.

She stood in a single, fluid movement, and made a sweeping gesture accompanied by a low word that was almost a hiss. The remaining four targets burst into flame, and Roberr felt a wave of heat roll past him. His father's sword moaned at his side, recognizing the strength of the sorcery; it sounded almost jealous.

She closed her eyes and the fires went out.

She did, he thought. She killed their adepts and took back the sword. He had no doubt of it, now. If she was serving the Shadir, she could have killed him and been gone from the keep before anyone noticed.

"They're scared," he said. In the face of her anger, he could offer them a charity that he couldn't have given when he was angry with them himself. "Scared of what might happen if I leave the keep, scared of what I might bring back... scared of what might happen if we try to hold out here."

"They're fools," she said, but the venom had gone out of her. "I can still take us outside, if you will."

Roberr took a long moment to consider. "Tomorrow," he said. "If we haven't heard from Boeringen or the Order, we'll go quietly tomorrow."

The grass at Miledha's feet caught fire. She glanced down, and the flames snuffed out. "Tomorrow," she agreed.

Roberr glanced down as well; something was sparkling. Where there had been flames, now there was a dusting of frost over the battered grasses of the practice field. He nodded, recognizing her anger and her power, and turned away. She was sleeping in the barracks, he knew; while his own place was, and had to be, on the uppermost level of the inner keep. His anger and his grief were locked away, buried beneath the solid stone weight of his duties... but seeing them reflected in Miledha, they suddenly became acute again.
Whatever his privy council advised, he wanted that gauntlet. It might be possible to hold the westerners here, to deny them a victory in much the way that he had described after hearing out their messenger. He didn't want that. He wanted them defeated. He wanted their leaders slain and their ranks shattered, so that they would spend generations humiliated and frightened. He wanted them to regret their dreams of invasion and conquest; he wanted them to suffer for the death of his father.

That had been Arimil's conceit, he remembered. The Last God had given his weapons to his sons, thinking that he had guaranteed peace by making the prospect of war too horrible to contemplate. His children could tend their own kingdoms, as they were born to do, secure in the knowledge that each held an equal share of ultimate power and none would dare to use it.

That peace had lasted three generations -- three long generations, for Arimil's children and grandchildren were partly divine -- before Arimil's death and the short memories of the mortal world had touched off the First War of the Princes.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Music: Sheryl Crow

Anything But Down:


Crash And Burn:


And, just to bring us up to three, how about Redemption Day?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Server Setup IV: The New Generation

...a ragged band of refugees wanders through the blighted, post-apocalyptic wasteland...

...Actually, they aren't all that ragged...

...and they aren't refugees, either...

...Okay, so, a small band of beta-testers logs bravely onto the new servers...

...which aren't exactly post-apocalyptic, and may not even be a wasteland...

...but anyway...

...a small band, driven on by the desperate hope for a better life, or at least better document storage...

...recruited into this fiendish test by a shadowy figure...

...that would be me...

...and, yeah, still no brain to be brainily brainfying with...

Server Setup III: Through The Portal of (Lunch) Time

...brain still gone...

...All software apparently now on the new servers, which are pointing to the test database for the moment...

...Chinese food...

...And after that, checking our work...

Server Setup II: The Quickening

...still on the same server...

...it's the first one...

...out of somewhere between three and five...

...still no brain...

Server Setup

...no brain to spare...

Monday, June 23, 2014

You cannot leave the keep...

I'm still having trouble with the next scene. I know where this is going; I know more or less what has to happen to get us from where we are now to that point. And what needs to happen is, basically, that Roberr gets blocked from leaving Langoish Keep. He says, "I'm going to go get us a weapon that would let us win," and everyone else says, "You can't just go charging off to do that, and it's far more likely to turn out badly than you even begin to think it is."

Problem is, the first three times I've taken a run at writing that, it comes out... flat. Bloodless. Boring. The summary version didn't seem to do it justice as something that Roberr would perceive as a major stumbling block. The arguing-in-council version was worse; I don't really think of dialogue as my strong suit, and this was like listening to your local city council meeting: if you weren't involved in the issue yourself, it would be unbelievably boring. The version where Roberr tried to recruit Brother Wend to help persuade the others is probably the best, but it's still basically the two of them arguing; it offered some reasonably interesting exposition, but ultimately it just bogged down.

So instead, I think I'm going to read back through what I have so far, and see what - if anything - flows naturally into the next place.

But hey - if anybody wants to suggest an approach, I'm open to alternatives... up to and including the possibility of having Roberr and Miledha go ahead and try to retrieve the Great Gauntlet; there's plenty of potential for conflict that way, too, including an all-too-probable I-Told-You-So moment with the rest of the advisers.

Hm. You know, I might just try that.

Anyway, suggestions: if you have 'em, sing out.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Music: Steam-Powered Giraffe

Since they were walking around in the video with Professor Elemental, how about some Steam-Powered Giraffe?

Brass Goggles:


Fancy Shoes:


Walter Robotics Rap:


Fire Fire:

Music: All In Together

Still working on sorting out some... everything, actually. So, how about something a bit more cheerful for this morning? Ladies and Gentlemen, Highborn and Low, I give you... Professor Elemental!



And hey, while we're here, Fighting Trousers:

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Music: Concrete Blonde

I don't listen to them as much as I used to, but Concrete Blonde remains one of my favorite bands.

Let's start with Bloodletting, because it's probably their best-known song:


Join me below the cut for more...

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

On Not Writing...

I was doing pretty well with The Great Weapons, I thought. I'm not talking about the quality of the writing; I really have no way of evaluating that until long after it's done. I'm really just talking about moving forward, about having my mind deep in the story, and -- as a result -- about Getting Things Done.

So I was doing pretty well. I'd been making steady progress, and even when I tripped myself up I was able to go back and correct it with a different version of the scene. It was a lot like how writing used to be for me, when I was younger: I knew where I wanted to go, it was just a matter of figuring out the best way to get there.

And then, after that, I just sort of... ran out. This happens to me with depressing regularity. I had a lot going on at work (I still do, may the dark gods preserve me); I had a lot going on at home (ditto); and I've been hugely tired for something like five straight weeks now, when I wasn't busy being sick instead. And yet, my interest in the story has persisted.

It's even persisted through the last... What has it been, a week? ...of being too tired and too stressed out to write. This isn't completely unprecedented, but it's been a couple of decades since I've had one really stick with me like that.

All of which is a very long way of saying that, just for a change, I actually am coming back to this. Right now, if I can manage it.

For those who are curious about such things, I usually write while listening to music. For this story I've been cycling through three albums from Diabulus In Musica, which appears to be a symphonic metal band from Spain: Argia (their newest), The Wanderer, and Secrets. If you like that sort of thing, give 'em a listen.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Thursday?

Thursday? Is this Thursday?

I never could get the hang of Thursdays...

Inundated

I'd meant to add another section of Atop The Ramparts today. Of course, I'd meant to write another section of Atop The Ramparts last night. Ah, well. C'est la guerre.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Music: Going Down

Dessa, this time:

Music: Blood Brother

I wanted to follow the last two songs with Richard Strange singing "The Time Is Now" (which, if you haven't heard it, go look it up on iTunes or something). Unfortunately, I can't find it on youtube (or anywhere else particularly usable), so instead you get "Blood Brother", which is apparently being used in a movie called Dark Hearts.

Music: Everybody Knows...

Leonard Cohen, of course:

Music: People Just Ain't No Good

Courtesy of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds:

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Great Weapons - Atop The Ramparts 09 (Only Different)

"My lord..." Miledha licked her lips, suddenly nervous.

"Please," he said. "Call me Roberr. You've certainly earned the right, and anyway I never had the impression that witches much cared about nobility or titles."

"I don't," said Miledha, and looked away over the walls. Roberr was looking at her, and she found it easier to speak if she was looking at something else; the steady movement of animals, vehicles, and people along the road would do nicely. "Very well: yes, I have an offer for you. I know of something that could turn the tide of battle and avenge your father. Except... I can't use it myself, and I can't tell you what it is, and I can't bring it to you. You'll have to come with me to retrieve it." She drew a breath and turned her head to look at him again. "And yes, I know how lunatic that sounds, and no, I don't see how you could fail to be suspicious."

Roberr blinked. "Suspicious," he repeated. "Yes, I suppose it should sound suspicious. Only... this time last year, the biggest threats to Langoish were small troops of bandits, and the occasional troublemaker sent across the border by lord Borilar. It was three months after that when we first heard that Drajindom had been invaded from the west."

He paused and looked away, remembering. "My father refused to credit those stories. No army could be so large, he said. No one in this Age could command such dark and ancient sorceries. He was still saying that when Drajindom fell. I think he only really believed the stories when the Shadir finally reached Borilar. Now they're here: an army powerful enough to overrun an entire kingdom in a matter of months. They've crossed our border. And here they've... stopped. They've offered us five day's grace, in exchange for an artifact that hasn't been seen in a thousand years, if it ever existed at all. That's the part that sounds lunatic."

He looked back at Miledha. "No, the only way this makes any sense at all is if I take them, and you, at your word: the Left Hand of Aribil is here, hidden away in some obscure corner of Langoish."

Miledha blinked twice. Maybe she didn't sound as crazy as she expected. That would be a welcome new experience. "You'll come with me, then?"

Roberr nodded. "As soon as I can. Like it or not -- and I don't -- I'm the Lord of Langoish Keep. With the enemy sitting almost on top of us, I can't just leave everyone here and walk out the gates -- not without making some arrangements, first."

Miledha nodded. She didn't like that, but she couldn't really argue it, either. A loud voice in the back of her mind was ranting that they needed to be moving, they needed to go before it was too late; another voice was reminding her that no, she couldn't force this, he had to help her willingly, and she should be grateful that he was willing. "How soon?" she asked.

"Tonight, if the Seven allow it." He looked thoughtful. "We can leave after dark, and be clear of the keep by moonrise."

Relief flooded through her. "I'll be ready," she told him.

So, with the slightly-spoiler-ish understanding that they won't be able to just walk off and retrieve the artifact as easily as all that, which version do you like better? To be honest, I prefer this one, and that's probably reason enough to keep it... but I'd still like to know what you think, O my readers.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Persian History... Sort of...

I'm feeling better, but I'm still hugely busy and now I'm behind, too. So, instead of actual writing, here's a brief history of the Prince Of Persia video games:

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Editing in motion...

One of the pieces of writing advice I've heard bandied about is that you really shouldn't try to edit while you write. Write first; edit later. Save the edits for your second draft.

I, um, yeah. That doesn't work for me. I tend to write stories consecutively, from the beginning to the end. So if I go significantly astray during some point in the process, I basically can't keep writing until I find the problem and fix it. I'm not talking little things, like grammar or spelling or missing words, or even things like getting the wording just right for a particular line of dialogue; I'm talking about things like setting up a character dynamic that's going to trip me up later, or that I'm not entirely sure I find believable.

I'm talking, specifically, about section nine of Atop The Ramparts. I'm talking about Miledha managing to completely alienate Roberr by saying just exactly the wrong thing.

It's not that I don't think it could happen; I wouldn't have written it in the first place if I couldn't see that line sort of popping out of Miledha's mouth. Still, it seems kind of contrived -- inserting drama into a situation that really doesn't need any more of it. And it's so completely the wrong thing to say, that I'm having trouble seeing how Roberr would be able to move past it and be able to work with her at all, ever. At the very least, it will force me to spend a fair amount of time resolving a side-conflict, and in terms of pacing and flow I'm not at all sure I want to do that.

So... I'm going to go back and re-read the entire story up to that point, and then I'm going to look at that scene again.

And then I'm probably going to rewrite it.

If those of you who've been reading along have any thoughts, I'd love to hear them.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Tummy bug...

I have some sort of stomach bug, and it is winning. More writing when I have fewer, um, "biological distractions".

Sheesh. And I thought allergies were bad.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Great Weapons - Atop The Ramparts 09

"My lord..." Miledha licked her lips, suddenly nervous.

"Please," he said. "Call me Roberr. You've certainly earned the right, and anyway I never had the impression that witches much cared about nobility or titles."

"I don't," said Miledha, and looked back out over the ramparts. Roberr was looking at her, but she found it easier to speak if she was looking at something else. The retreating line of carts and peasants would serve nicely. "I care about revenge. Your father... he found me when I was child, when I was hungry and afraid, and he took me in. He taught me to read and write; he recognized my talents and brought me to dame Naggia to train them. He was... I wished he was my father." She risked a glance at Roberr's face, and saw nothing but attention there: no shock, no disapproval, not even a hint of pity. "I want to protect our lands, but more than that I want them to pay: the soldiers, Captain Dezarr... even the High Lord of the Shadir, if we can manage it."

"I want your help," said Roberr suddenly, not quite interrupting her. "I think we need it. Brother Wend knows many things, but he isn't trained for battle... and the Shadir sorcerers, as you said, are strong."

Miledha nodded. Her next words... she had the impression of stepping out onto a frozen pond, not knowing if the ice would crack underneath her, or whether she could keep her balance. "I know something," she said. "I can't speak of it. It could help you against them; it could make you a champion. Only I can't bring it to you; you'll have to come with me to retrieve it." She drew a deep breath as he looked away. "Yes, I know how lunatic that sounds, and yes, I don't see how you could fail to be suspicious."

Roberr closed his eyes and rested his weight on the cold stone of the ramparts. "Is it nearby?" he asked.

"A day, to get there and back. A little more than half that if we raced."

Roberr leaned his head against the stone. "I can't do it." He straightened, and turned to look at her. "I can't leave the keep. With the enemy sitting just over the border, I can't abandon my post. Not even for something that might help me defend it."

Miledha drew a startled breath. "You don't want to avenge your father?" she asked.

Now Roberr's face looked shocked. For a long moment he didn't say anything. Then he said, "Go away."

Oh gods, did I just say that? "I'm sorry," she said.

"Leave. Now." He placed a hand on the hilt of his father's sword, which moaned in its case on his hip.

She recognized the look in his eyes, the murderous fury barely restrained. It was the same rage that haunted her, the same feral impulse that had prompted her outraged words.

She went.



Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Hacky-sack

Randomly reminded of this:



...And also this.

What two words describe you?

I took one of those horrible Facebook quizzes that scrape your profile for every available bit of your personal information so that the creators of the quiz can sell it to marketers.[1] This is what it says about me. What will you discover if you take the quiz?[2]
I got Exhausted Parent. What two words describe you?

You haven't been completely rested for three and a half weeks, maybe longer. You're stressed out at work, drained by trying to keep up with your children at home, and overwhelmed by the rising tide of household chores and projects. You're actively hoping for some sort of horrible disaster to strike, because at least then you'd be able to stop and rest. An axe-wielding homicidal rampage isn't completely out of the question, though most of the time it sounds like too much work...


[1] No. No, I did not.

[2] Feel free to fill in your own answers in the comments. The original (on a friend's FB feed) was horribly, sickeningly sweet, and talked at length about the person's saintly virtues, but I know you can all do better than that...

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Maybe not today...

I was a bit sick yesterday, and I rather desperately need to do some troubleshooting and lay some groundwork for a project today. So, instead of another scene from The Great Weapons, I'm going to link over to this. Apparently it originated here.

I want to re-read the last bit of The Great Weapons before I post it. I mean, yeah, sure, this is top-of-my-head first draft stuff, but I still need the general outlines and basic interactions to work. Otherwise I'm going to write myself into a corner, one way or another.

Monday, June 2, 2014

The Great Weapons - Atop The Ramparts 08

Roberr leaned against the crenelations and watched the wagons depart. It was nearly noon; his plan to have the wagons moving at dawn had failed miserably. The wagons, at least, had been ready. They were loaded with a few items of value and such supplies as the keep could spare. Mainly, though, they had been readied for the ones who couldn't travel any other way: the very young, the very old, and two of the worst-injured soldiers

No, what had kept them from leaving was the people. They had created the steady stream of delays, milling around or standing uncomfortably; none of them wanted to be the first to leave. Then there had been the ones who needed to go back for one more thing, or the ones who had to stop and rearrange their possessions - usually because they were carrying too much. There were children who got bored and wandered off, and then had to be found; there were elderly servants who had lived in the keep all their lives, and had to be coaxed into leaving.

It was only when his mother mounted her horse and started for the gate, with the guards and scouts scrambling onto their mounts in order to follow her, that the crowd finally began to move. It began as a slow ripple around the edges, and continued until everyone was flowing out the gate. Well, almost: there was still a pair lingering near the walls, with the woman standing patiently while the man sorted items from his knapsack. Whatever he decided not to take would probably be left there in a pile; the courtyard was littered with discarded items already. The guards were going to complain about being made to pick them all up, but it would have to be done.

"Are they going to make it? I've never seen people move so slowly. They're strung out for half a mile already."

Roberr turned his head, and found Miledha standing next to him. "They'll make it," he said. "It'll be an unholy mess, but they'll make it."

"It's already an unholy mess," said the witch.

"It could be worse. Most of our bandits came from across the border, and there's nobody left over there." He paused at that; it hadn't sounded as reassuring spoken aloud as it had in his head. "The Shadir haven't crossed yet, except for maybe a few scouts. If there are any problems, they'll come from other refugees... but my mother knows what she's doing, and the troops that went with her are experienced."

Miledha turned her head, looking out over ramparts again, and Roberr took the opportunity to look as well. Already the group was growing. They'd sent fifty or so people in the company of two wagons, but smaller groups of peasants were already moving to join them. Some had carts or wagons, while others were leading animals; it looked as if one fellow was pushing a wheelbarrow, though it was hard to be sure at this distance.

"So," said Roberr at last, "you said you had some sort of offer for me?"