Friday, May 31, 2013

Rough Draft Fridays

One of the great pleasures of writing Mourning has been seeing how Khi'ilan, and the Thirteen Paths of Nakhacevir, has changed after the death of the tair, the battle at Kir, and the collapse of the religious and political structure. In particular, it has been fun to think about the challenges that people would face if they had never experienced winter before and, quite suddenly, they were forced to deal with that new hardship. The scene below combines some of that fun with one of the things I've liked most about Flesh and Fell as a series--the scenes where I get to show off all the cool powers of the dew of flesh and the godblood.

Abass’s breath misted in the moonlight. He jumped again, the power and speed of the godblood in him, making the world fall away—branches whipping past, the darkness, then the curve of the earth like a great chalice waiting to be filled to the brim with life. As he fell, the forests bled out beneath him, patches of darkness eating up the white stretches of snow. Closer now, almost beneath him, the red and orange flicker of campfires. Smoke slipped up like lacework around the stars.

He landed in one of those patches of white, snow bursting up into a cloud around him, freezing and melting on his cheeks in an instant. Abass stayed kneeling, listening. The crystalline brush of the snow settling. The wind scraping branch against branch. Crackling flames. And the voices of men. Low, chatting, undisturbed.

They had not heard him.

Firelight scratched the bark of nearby trees—slivers of light that would have been all but invisible to Abass without the power of the godblood. He crept closer, moving slowly so that the snow did not crunch underfoot. This type of sneaking was new to him; born in the city, a man of the city, Abass had never been a hunter or a woodsman. And, of course, Nakhacevir had never known snow in all the years of his life until now. But time did funny things to a man—and to a land. So he took his time easing up between the trees, avoiding fallen branches, grateful that if he moved slowly enough, the heavy snow masked his sound.

Crimson League reminder

A quick reminder that my friend Victoria's book The Crimson League is free today and tomorrow on Amazon, and that the final book of her Herezoth trilogy is available as of today.

More here.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Crimson League

I want to let you all know that my friend Victoria Grefer will be giving away the first book of her Herezoth trilogy, The Crimson League, on Amazon for free on May 31 and June 1. The final book of the trilogy is being released on May 31, so if you haven't had a chance to read any of her books, this is a good time to pick up the first one for free, see if you like it, and then get the rest. You can read with the security of knowing that the series has already been finished!

More info here.

Novel Wednesdays

A final passage from All Clear. I highly recommend reading this book (and the first part, Blackout).

To do something for someone or something you loved--England or Shakespeare or a dog or the Hodbins or history--wasn't a sacrifice at all. Even if it cost you your freedom, your life, your youth.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Poetry Mondays

Here's the final stanza of Shelley's "Ode to the West Wind." After the remarkable plea in the fourth stanza, when Shelley expresses his despair, the fifth stanza moves into a beautiful vision. It begins with Shelley imagining himself as a forest, but importantly, a forest that is, when moved by the autumn wind, also a lyre. The image of Shelley as a forest, with his leaves falling in autumn, is breathtaking to me, as is the autumnal tone that he imagines the wind wringing from him as it tears him apart.

The lines "Drive my dead thoughts over the universe / Like withered leaves to quicken a new birth" bring the opening stanza of the poem full circle into the end. The wind stirring pestilential leaves has changed; now it is a wind driving Shelley's thoughts before it, but, like the leaves of the first stanza, Shelley's thoughts will find a grave that offers new birth. These thoughts are not just thoughts, though--as they are manifested through this poem, like an incantation, they become ashes and sparks. They become, in other words, not just seeds for plants, but seeds for new fires. The final lines reinforce this image of death and rebirth. "If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?"

Make me thy lyre, even as the forest is:
What if my leaves are falling like its own!
The tumult of thy mighty harmonies

Will take from both a deep, autumnal tone,
Sweet though in sadness. Be thou, Spirit fierce,
My spirit! Be thou me, impetuous one!

Drive my dead thoughts over the universe
Like withered leaves to quicken a new birth!
And, by the incantation of this verse,

Scatter, as from an unextinguished hearth
Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!
Be through my lips to unawakened earth

The trumpet of a prophecy! O Wind,
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?

Friday, May 24, 2013

Rough Draft Fridays

Hash, the third POV from Mourning, is a character you may remember from The Dew of Flesh. He had a relatively minor role (I won't go into the details, to avoid potential spoilers). We learn a lot more about Hash in this book--where he's from, what brought him to the Pits, and how he became a priest in a shrine of life. He faces some of the same troubles as Saat and Abass, but from different angles. The economic hardships of Khi'ilan exert a different kind of pressure on Hash, and he finds himself in a very difficult situation in the shrine. Of course, there are also plenty of people who are willing to make Hash's life more difficult than it has to be--as you're about to see.

A block from the shrine, Hash saw them. A group of men—four of them. In the mild weather, they had abandoned the sheepskin cloaks that most in the city wore. No cloaks meant that Hash could make out the cheap linen and wool of their clothing. It also meant that he could see that they carried clubs and, more importantly, that they looked like men who knew how to use them.

He eyed them for a pace or two before he realized they were waiting. Not right in front of the shrine. That might be obvious. But after a few more paces, he realized they were watching the front door of the shrine. Watching and waiting. That was not a good sign.

At the next building, a run-down tavern that served watered-down beer, Hash stopped and leaned up against the peeling whitewash. Watching and waiting. It could be they were the guard of some merchant who had decided to visit the shrine. Could be. But they weren’t. The way the rest of the people on the street avoided looking at them told Hash these men were trouble. And the street, normally fairly busy, was all but empty in the late morning. Why? The answer was obvious: people knew trouble. And with the eses gone, trouble meant keep your head down and your eyes up.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Novel Wednesdays

Another passage from All Clear.

She had always wondered how the contemps had found the courage to go on after their husbands, parents, children, and friends had been pulled lifeless from the rubble. But it wasn't courage. It was that there were so many things that had to be taken care of that by the time one had done all of them, it was too late to give way.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Poetry Mondays

Here is the fourth stanza of Shelley's "Ode to the West Wind." I've skipped two stanzas, not because I don't like them (I do) but because I don't think they're my favorite, and there are other things I'd like to talk about. This stanza is heartbreaking to me. I fully recognize that an emotional, subjective response isn't always the best or most important response to an aesthetic object, but I think those types of response are valuable nonetheless.

The two stanzas I skipped are about clouds and waves, so that the first lines of this stanza recall the three first stanzas: leaves, clouds, waves directed by the power of the wind. The phrase "to pant beneath thy power" is a remarkable one, I think. In the appeal to a former, lost childhood, you can hear a familiar trope from Romanticism, namely, an idealization of childhood, its innocence and magic.

But I think there's nothing more remarkable in this poem than Shelley's lines, "Oh lift me as a wave, a leaf, a cloud! / I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed!"

If I were a dead leaf thou mightest bear;
If I were a swift cloud to fly with thee;
A wave to pant beneath thy power, and share

The impulse of thy strength, only less free
Than thou, O uncontrollable! If even
I were as in my boyhood, and could be

The comrade of thy wanderings over Heaven,
As then, when to outstrip thy skiey speed
Scarce seemed a vision; I would ne'er have striven

As thus with thee in prayer in my sore need.
Oh, lift me as a wave, a leaf, a cloud!
I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed!

A heavy weight of hours has chained and bowed
One too like thee: tameless, and swift, and proud.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Rough Draft Fridays

Here's a bit more from Saat's POV. Among other things, Saat is facing many of the same problems as Abass: the hunger gripping the city, the sudden changes to power, and a sense of responsibility for people that, he believes, he has let down. Saat, of course, has his own problems to deal with too--which you'll learn all about when the book comes out--but one of the foremost ones is that, as a former esis, he's unsure of his place in the new Khi'ilan. Part of his story is learning what that new place might be, particularly in a new Old Truth that he needs to adjust to.

Furtherfew, Old Truth’s largest market, was bustling. Saat pulled his sheepskin cloak closer against the wind, grimaced at the frozen slush that was turning his feet to ice, and sidestepped a team of man rolling barrels out of the market.

Tair and Father, what he wouldn’t give for a decent pair of boots.

A man of the law, and especially an esis who had been on the streets of Old Truth, never looked at a market the same way as other men. Oh, Saat saw the small stalls, most lacking any sort of covering, the wood warped from rain and snow and sun. And he saw the sad piles of creeping squash and pumpkin and onions that were, from the smell, on the edge of being foul beyond eating.

More than that, though, he saw the boys—some almost grown enough to be men—who wandered back and forth through the crowd, ready to cut a purse or palm a piece of fruit when eyes were turned. The bigger boys weren’t so bad; Saat had never felt of twinge of conscious if he threw them in a cell for a few days or just gave them a good roughing up. The small ones, though—towheaded and smiling—they would cut a purse or palm a coin as fast as the bigger ones, but as soon as they turned their tearful eyes on Saat, he suddenly found it hard to finish the whipping, or take them all the way to the cells. He would tell himself, time and again, that they just needed a talking to, a good mother, and a belly full of food. And over time, the small thieves became the big ones.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Novel Wednesdays

I just finished reading Connie Willis's wonderful All Clear and I thought I'd give you a few of my favorite parts.

This is a humorous exchange between two characters (one major, one minor) that I really enjoyed. The man is trying to seduce the woman.

"I'm deadly serious," he said. "Our souls have been destined to be together throughout history. I told you, we were Tristan and Isolde." He moved in closer. "We were Pelleas and Melisande, Heloise and Abelard." He leaned toward her. "Catherine and Heathcliff--"

"Catherine and Heathcliff are not historical figures, and there weren't any Christian slaves in Babylon," she said, slipping neatly away from him. "It was B.C., not A.D."

Monday, May 13, 2013

Poetry Mondays

Here's the first stanza of a poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley, "Ode to the West Wind." I love it for a number of reasons. First of all, I think it has beautiful language. There are a lot of ways for a poem to be beautiful, of course. Here, Shelley does an excellent job with imagery. Pestilential leaves, driven by the wind into their graves, is a remarkable image. I love the confidence of the poem, the assurance that Shelley brings to it. When he reaches the last line of the stanza, there is something remarkable to me about those words: "hear, oh, hear!"

Oddly, though, I find myself disenchanted (pun?) with the image of the leaves as ghosts. It's the only line of the stanza that I don't like.

O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn's being,
Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,

Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red,
Pestilence-stricken multitudes: O thou,
Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed

The wing├ęd seeds, where they lie cold and low,
Each like a corpse within its grave, until
Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow

Her clarion o'er the dreaming earth, and fill
(Driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air)
With living hues and odours plain and hill:

Wild Spirit, which art moving everywhere;
Destroyer and preserver; hear, oh, hear!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Rough Draft Fridays

Here's a bit more from Abass's POV from Mourning. From the pieces I've shown you, you can get a sense of the problems that Khi'ilan is facing at the end of their first winter: hunger, desperation, and the instability that comes from a sudden shift in power. These are problems that Abass is involved in not only because he is the godblood of Khi'ilan, but because he feels responsible for them. As the eses warned in The Dew of Flesh, winter came when the tair died, and Abass was the one to kill the tair.

The temple was, of course, officially no longer a temple. It was hard to have a temple when your god was dead. It was even harder to have a temple when all of the warrior-priests had gone off and gotten themselves killed.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle that faced the council, though, was that it was, in the end, still the temple.

Abass grimaced, half in relief, half in despair, as the gates to the temple compound swung shut behind the last wagon. Bringing the grain here hadn’t been the original plan, although the temple compound was certainly big enough, and there were places to store the grain. But it had been necessity, rather than logistics, that had forced Mece to turn west along the Way of Ash, bringing them straight to the temple rather than to the city’s granaries.

Mobs—even the desperately hopeful kind, like the one outside—had that kind of power.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Books page update & blogging slowdown

I've updated the books page; it now lists all of my books available for sale (although not the novellas) and has a more accurate account of when each series should be finished. Just to recap here:

The Rim and the Shore: finished
Flesh and Fell: I'm finishing up the rough draft of Mourning and then will write the novella. Expect them for sale in the summer. This will conclude Flesh and Fell.
The Sophistries of June: Two more books to come, as well as two more novellas. Book 3 + novella should be out by the end of the year, Book 4 + novella in early 2014.

Also, I've fallen behind on my blogging this week. I'll try to get back into the regular posts of poetry and rough drafts and novels, but this month is very hectic for me, so I may not be able to keep up with all of it. Don't worry--that just means I'm using my time to write, instead of to blog.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Novel Wednesdays

One last passage from The Blind Assassin.

The French are connoisseurs of sadness, they know all the kinds. This is why they have bidets.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Rough Draft Fridays

A bit more of Hash's story from Mourning.

The next morning, the sun was out. With a mild breeze, and the last determined icicles dripping sadly, whatever weather had moved into Khi’ilan in the last few hours had brought a new vigor to the city. As though the city had decided to jump straight into spring. Hash wasn’t sure if that was how it was supposed to work; this was the first winter Khi’ilan had known. Maybe it was finally over.
The day was almost warm enough that Hash was tempted to take his shirt off as he worked on the roof. Almost. He kept the shirt on, though. People—especially women—had a tendency to get distracted when Hash took his shirt off. He knew it. His father had known it. Hash realized he was gritting his teeth and forced himself to relax his grip on the hammer. For now, the shirt stayed on. Although it would have been nice to feel the sun on his back.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Novel Wednesdays

Another passage from The Blind Assassin.

Farewells can be shattering, but returns are surely worse. Solid flesh can never live up to the bright shadow cast by its absence. Time and distance blur the edges; then suddenly the beloved has arrived, and it's noon with its merciless light, and every spot and pore and wrinkle and bristle stands clear.