Sailors on the Sea

Friday, October 31, 2008

Elven Wings at Rest

This was originally posted on A VOICE IN THE WIND, but it really belongs here. Although not directly part of any story, it is part of the saga.
Elven Wings at Rest

If chance you’re had a weary flight,
Then come to me and I’ll set it right.
Lean your head against my breast.
Set your Elven wings at rest.
I’ll care for you. I’ll love you dear.
I’ll keep you safe. I’ll keep you near.

You live your life away and free.
You travel far. No time for me.
I wait alone. I toil and pray
That my love will draw you back one day.
I care for you and love you true.
I believe and hope in all you do.

So if chance you’ve had a weary flight,
Then come to me and I’ll set it right.
Lean your head against my breast.
Set your Elven wings at rest.
I’ll care for you. I’ll love you dear.
I’ll keep you safe. So have no fear.

You’re beauty’s more than I can know.
I cannot keep you and so let you go.
You must be free and not be bound.
You must take flight and leave the ground.
Your dreams and vision you must fulfil.
I cannot keep you with my will.

But if chance you’ve had a weary flight,
Then come to me. I’ll set things right.
Lean your head against my breast.
Set your Elven wings at rest.
Renew your strength within my love.
Then fly again, my ensnaring dove.

Monday, October 27, 2008

What's in a Name

Evil Editor and several of his minions made mention that instead of reading my hero's name (Khirsha) Kh - ear - shah, they read it as Krishna.

I just did a Wikipedia investigation of Krishna. I knew Krishna was from Hindu, and I have heard of the Hare Krishna movement, but I really know nothing of the Hindu religion. At least, I didn't think I did. Based on what I read, the mistake regarding Khirsha's name is quite understandable - and acceptable, I think.

From the Ashes Shall Rise a Phoenix

Okay. Here is the current inspiration. Let's hope it has merit, Ducky.

I have copied the entire critique to an Excel file where I can better organize the complaints against the query. Aside from the fact that the query wasn't really a query (as EE pointed out), and that it was too long (several pointed this out), it left important questions unanswered while answering questions which were not important at all. So, apart from the fact that I can't sell, what went wrong at the detail level?

My current thought is that I tried to talk about three things at once. This violates all good thinking when taking any picture, and I have been told a query is like a snapshot of the story, intended to spark interest. I have told Barlyn more than once that her pictures don't turn out because she is trying to photograph both the forground and background at the same time. If the background is important, forget about what's up front. Get it out of the way so the background can be seen. If the forground is important, frame it tightly so it fills the picture. Would that not work for a query, too? Not that I'm some expert on photography, but that's what I was told when I worked for the newspaper: my pictures sucked because I didn't seem to know what I was taking a picture of. That's why my query sucked. Well, one reason why. I didn't know what I was trying to say.

On the one hand, Flames of Hatred is about treason and political maneuvering. On another, it is about what is happening to Khirsha. Finally, there is the story of Swords of Fire itself, of which Flames of Hatred represents merely a chapter.

I had no business trying to sell anyone on all three at the same time. I'm not a salesperson, but I expect good sales people do not try to sell everything to a customer. Not at the same time. They pick their product and emphasize it, leaving other wonderful products unmentioned until their time. Flames of Hatred is not about the battle for the Great Sea, although that is taking place within its pages. Neither is it about Khirsha, and the Power which has come upon him and certain individuals who get too close. Flames of Hatred is about treason and political maneuvering.

BuffySquirrel (I love these pseudonyms) gave me a good list:
What's at stake
Why is someone committing treason
What happens if it doesn't stop
What does Khirsha (Priapus) have to do with it
(I had to look up Priapus in Wikipedia. I had a feeling it was a joke. It was. You may already know about him. I'm not that well read. Anyway, I need to keep another window open just to look up references the EE minions make which fly right past me.)
Priapus was a character from Greek mythology. He was a "fertility god, protector of livestock, fruit plants, gardens and male genitalia.
I'm not so certain Khirsha would appreciate the comparison. Well, maybe he would.)

Evil Editor had a similar list:
Who is committing treason
Why was it ignored
Why is Khirsha important to the Powers

Writtenwyrdd's comments supports my comprehension that I put too much in the query.
"Sounds like it can be a workable plot for an epic fantasy. But as others mention, you can't describe every detail in a query. ... I'm finding it difficult to wade through the details and determine what's the point of the book.)
Writtenwyrdd also added that the query is a like an elevator pitch - a single sentence describing story essentials. This makes me think of my snapshot analogy.

Robin S also provided a bullet list:
Take time off and then come back and rewrite (she was not the only one to suggest this)
Give less plot
Provoke an interest in the book
Try to do it in ten sentences or less

The consensus of thought is overwhelming. What is so humiliating is not the criticism. Hell, I've been criticized all my life - often by very wonderful people. People I love very dearly don't even like me. No, the thing that demoralizes me so is that I'm suppposed to be intelligent. I have a high I.Q. I've read a lot (not like these people, though). I know how to figure things out. So why the F--- didn't I pick this up on my own? Well, I know now. That's something, at least.

So, I have two choices right now: rewrite the query - as a query - and submit it again; forget the query (what the hell good does it do to write a query which will be rejected because of story length) and concentrate on cutting apart the story itself in order to reduce its length. The danger I must avoid in chopping pieces off the story is that I do not leave it like some plastic reproduction of the Venus de Milo. It really is a shame the arms were lost. And I think she should have done something different with her hair. Now, where did I put that chisel?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Challenge

I haven't posted anything since Thursday. I wasn't in the mood Friday morning, and Friday afternoon was my Day of Reckoning regarding my query for Swords of Fire: Flames of Hatred. To put it mildly: ouch.

I have longer to go than I anticipated. Query writing is just not my cup of tea. Unfortunately, I'm going to have to drink it often if anything I write is to ever be published.

Except the query is not the biggest of my problems. I have to rewrite. Again. Which version will this be? Fortieth? Fiftieth? I don't know. I've lost count. I've also lost some of the earliest manuscripts. It's just as well. After all I was told on Evil Editor's blog I had to go look at some of those early writings just to confirm I am writing better than before. I came across a version from the early 1980s. (I do not think any writings from the 1970s survive. Perhaps I'll do a search. That's as good an excuse as any not to write.) In any case, embarassed as I was to read my writing style of twenty-five years ago, I was pleased to know I do not write like that today. I have improved. Have I improved enough? It doesn't look like it.

What I am confronted with is a drastic reduction in SIZE. Apparently, and as I consider it, it makes sense, NO publisher, agent, whoever, is going to invenst the kind of money required to put out a 200,000 word book for an author nobody has heard of. That's like me betting everything I have on a single shot in the dark - with my eyes closed and no idea of which direction the target lays. It's a pity, though. All the work to get things in order. Emotionally, it feels like it was for nothing now. Will these stories even be the same? Historically, my rewrites to reduce have resulted in drastic changes to storylines. Characters disappear. Shoot. Abandoning White King of Ladondo meant losing an entire world. Well, this is what I've got before me:

Book I: Flames of Hatred -Family caravans are being attacked. So far no one has been killed, but how is it roaming bandits know when and where to attack? Khirsha, trying to pull a prank on his younger cousins, may have just stumbled on the reason: Prince Johahnan, of the nearby Kingdom of Azua, and his guard are in family lands posed as a common soldiers under the pretense of bringing aid. But how does Prince Johahnen know when the family caravans are scheduled? The attacks have put pressure on Khirsha's grandfather, who is Head-of-Family, to resign and allow someone who can to stop these attacks. Johahnen would love to see that happen. It would open the way for him to take control of Fire Mountain, from which the family's flameswords are made. Others are investigating, but it is Khirsha who finally puts the pieces together and identifies the traitor. Can he return to the Compound and warn his grandfather before the traitor kills him. It doesn't seem likely. 190,000 words

Book II: Prophecies of Madatar - Kelso and the triplets have gone through the Window with flameswords and are now trapped in another world. To make matters worse, they have been gone long enough for the Window's curse to take hold, removing their memory of their home world. Khirsha is chosen to go through the Window himself and take back the flameswords. Older warriors fare worse against the curse than younger. Can he track down his cousins and retrieve the weapons before the curse takes him, too? How can he take the weapons if his cousins do not remember him? They will fight. The triplets do not concern him, but Kelso. does. Not only does Khirhsa love him as a brother, but he has never been able to beat Kelso whenever they fought. 180,000 words

Book III: Bonds of Love - The Warlord Shatahar is coming to Senvewhah to destroy Madatar and his people. Mishua and Elden have returned to prepare the Elves and Ceres for departure, but something is wrong with Mishua. She is acting deranged. Khirhsa, awakens on Grenville's Isle to learn his family on Azua is in grave danger. A new force from Shatahar is preparing an assault them and they are not prepared. He has to find a way to send word. He can't go himself. He must enlist the help of the Figgit fleet to get the Elves and Ceres off Senvewhah, where Shatahar himself is heading to kill them all. But the Figgits demand a price for their help: Khirsha must take his flamesword and kill the terror which threatens them.

Book IV: Out of the Shadows - Khirhsa is taking a great risk. Instead of taking the Elves and Ceres to the world assigned to them by Lord Kensington, the Great Sea's Regent, Khirsha is bringing them to Azua to help fight off Shatahar's forces and save his family. What will the Cere and Elf kings do when they learn what he has done? And will they be in time anyway? - no word count at this time / 50,000 words written

Book V: Madatar's Choice - Khirsha's acclamations fade quickly as the thousands of Ceres and Elves realize they only have a short time to prepare for winter, which would not have been the case had Khirsha brought them to the world already prepared. Khirsha's family is also angry. True, he has saved them from the Warlords Irvahn and Geomahn, but he has also stressed their resources by adding thousands to a community only suited to support hundreds. - no word count / 0 words written

Book VI: The Way Home - When a new cave is exposed in the heights of Fire Mountain Khirsha and his company are chosen to investigate it. What they learn is that opening this cave they may have just given the Warlord Shatahar what he needs to launch a new assault on Madatar's people. How long can a small company hold off the forces of shadow which seek to pass them? - no word count / 0 words written

Tavaar's Story: The Chronicles of Tavaar, from birth to the year 340. - 500,000 words

With the exception of Tavaar's Story, each of these books must be reduced to 100,000 words or less. Good luck, Ducky.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Old Beginnings to New Endings

I often wish I still had the original map for Swords of Fire. It was a monstrous thing, drawn on the stiff paper covering for a double bed matress. When it was folded it was as thick as a book. I had hung it on my wall as a reference while I wrote.

It is gone now. Someone, perhaps even myself, tossed it one day while cleaning. It wasn't always on the wall, you see. The stiff brown wrapping paper must have looked no different than than any other packaging material to whoever was cleaning. (Statistically speaking, the likelihood I would have been cleaning was minimal. I'm just not that neat.)

I'm not even sure the original story remains. I remember the title: The White King of Ladondo. Perhaps it still lies hidden in one of the big computer boxes down in the utility room with all my other writing memorabilia. Most of the original Swords of Fire work is there. Some of it has been lost forever.

The map was not. I had been looking at it for so long I knew most of it without thinking. So, I redrew it. But it wasn't the same. I didn't have giant paper to work with. The White King of Ladondo was to be abandoned. My thinking was it was to be merely an interruption. I was progressing with it, and I even had an audience who pretended to listen rapturously while I read installments. (That's something I haven't done in thirty years.) But the story had awakened in me a desire to know about the history, and I found myself going backward in time to write a prequel. That led to me going back further, and further again.

I tried going back to the Beginning. I thought maybe that was what was needed. I wrote about Kensington, Draem and Zenophone, the first the Children of Fire who came to the Sea. I wrote about the birth of dragons, and unicorns and the other creatures which, by the time of Flames of Hatred, are viewed (at least, by Khirsha's family) as mythological, or historical at best. I wrote of Zenophone's descent into darkness, and his efforts to take control of the Sea to himself. I wrote of the Great War, in which most of the mythical creatures were destroyed, and the Sea itself came near to utter ruin. But this was not the beginning I needed. It was not the story begging to be shown to the world.

In time, I realized the best place to begin the world's education on the Great Sea was at the time Madatar (the One prophesied by the High King himself) and Shatahar (Zenophone's top Warlord) began to 'heat up' their fight to control the Great Sea. Which brought me to Khirsha, through who's eyes we would see this battle unfold.

It meant a new world. The one I had drawn first no longer fit. For many years, though, I still planned that the original world would come into play. Now I am not so sure. Events, as they have unfolded, have made that very unlikely. While I can see how to get characters to that world, I can find no reason to do so. Until they have a reason for going there, they cannot go.

That's the problem with starting over at an earlier point. One runs the risk of eliminating 'great' passages, places and events. My original ending for Book I was lost. The original Book I, Prophecies of Madatar, eventually was split into two books, Flames of Hatred and Prophecies of Madatar. But as the story unfolded the ending which filled me with such joy no longer had a place. It went to the computer boxes in the utility room. Amazingly, just a few months ago, I was inspired to see how that ending could be revived - in the very last book when the story finally closes. I hope to live to write it.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Housing Assignments

Can you believe it? I just spent a great deal of time writing a blog entry. When I finished, I arrowed up to review what I had written before I posted it. Instead of stopping at the top (like a decent and normal text editor) the damn cursor continues up and ERASED EVERYTHING I HAD JUST WRITTEN.


Yes, I know. Christians aren't supposed to swear. Well, I do. Especially when I feel cheated. Sorry about that.

This is so depressing. I had spent the past hour relating my process for devising the Family Tree upon which my book is based. [Reader: Thank God for the miracle of text editor quirks.] There are over 6,700 individuals on that Family Tree, and I spent years putting it together. [Reader: Oh, great. And I suppose you expect us to spend years reading it?] I thought it might be interesting for readers to know some of the background work behind Swords of Fire. [Reader: Think again. It appears even God wasn't interested. Take a hint and give it a rest.] I expect I shall redo it, but not now. I'm annoyed. [Reader: That ain't all you are. You created over six thousand names of people WHO AREN'T EVEN IN YOUR BOOK? You're an idiot.] For now, all I'll say is a LOT of background effort has gone into this. Not that anyone cares. [Reader: First intelligent thing you said.] Well, I do.

With regards.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A Saga Begins

The Great Sea. Final creation of the High King. Stretching beyond the reach of mortals, it harbors a myriad of worlds under the High King's constant vigil. Surrounding the worlds is the Cloud: the Dark Buffer which separates Time. For, by the High King's design, time moves independently in each world. The Cloud itself, however, is not measured in units of time. Within the Cloud there is neither morning nor evening, sun nor stars, wind nor rain. A Twilight Zone of eternal mist it is, leaving all within its clutches at the mercy of the Sea's wayward currents.

The Great Sea. Wild and dangerous. The Peoples of its worlds seldom venture far onto its waves. Few terrors cannot be faced in preference to the Sea. Once out from the security of land, vessels would be exposed to the unpredictable and cruel nature of the expanse. Yet some terrors are better fled from. Even if it means facing the Sea.

The Great Sea. Endless is the reach of its arms and influence. From its depths all worlds sprang, and to its depths all worlds shall again return. The Great Sea. To some: an insurmountable barrier and captor, holding them fast to their world by fear. To others: a highway to freedom.

So, at one time, began the first of the novels to arise from the Swords of Fire saga. This prologue, now thirty years old, is poor at best. Even so, I begin this historical trek through the creation of Swords of Fire with it, despite it having been abandoned many years ago. This is the version which followed the original book's failure to be published way back before my 'great awakening' to what I really wanted to write. If you think the prologue above silly and stupid you should try reading the actual novel. I don't know that I can anymore, although I still have it, tucked away in cardboard boxes down the stairs and hidden in the utility room with the other early efforts. They are quite embarrassing for me to read now. Still, much of what this prologue says remains true through more than three dozen attempts to rewrite from scratch. It is kind of like cornerstone.

The Sea, the Cloud, the High King, many worlds and differences in time are all integral parts of the expanse my characters now call home. I know what it looks like. I know the governing laws by which it operates. Thirty years ago I don't know that I could have said that. But thirty years ago I was far younger and trying to write something completely different than what exists today. This prologue isn't even the original. The original, which may or may not exist in the cases of old writings in the utility room, was over thirty pages long. A good friend, who loved to read, very gently coaxed me into reducing it a little at a time, until I finally got the message and rewrote from scratch three paragraphs to set up what was to happen. That's why this version lasted so long, I think. After thirty pages three paragraphs looked pretty good no matter how ridiculous they read.

The main problem with this prologue, and indeed, the entire original novel, was my youthful effort to sound 'mystical' and 'wise'. It's a tendency I clearly struggle with even today. For me, the writing of Swords of Fire became much more relaxing when I ceased to write about mystical and wise people doing great and wonderful deeds, and I started writing about real people with real problems, who happen to exist in a place which has some fairly fantastic properties. It became much more fun when I admitted it was not a story about dragons, burning swords, time jumps through portals, war or quests or anything like that. It's a love story. I guess that's why I love it. I know now who the main characters are.

Forgive the rambling. I like to do that. You should see some of my first drafts. I once wrote twenty pages describing an important event in Flames of Hatred. When it came time to incorporate that event into the actual storyline, I wrote a single paragraph which said everything. I've kept the twenty pages, though.


A Tentative Schedule

Monday - Progress Report
Where am I with regard to the Current Book

Tuesday - Thoughts About Writing
I was going to be profound, but let's be real

Wednesday - What Am I Learning
What can I take from what I am doing

Thursday - Work Sent Out For Review
Respondes to my submissions

Friday - Other Works of Fantasy
Some of my other fantasy writing

Saturday - The Impact of Music
How music has influenced what I write

Sunday - Venting
My 'morbid' time. A safe compromise, I think