Editing

I think the real purpose of editing is staring at the manuscript after it’s away and instantly realizing all the things I could improve. Things I never saw before after months/years of poring over the text are brutally obvious now.

Status

Bedtime Stories is away.

I’ve been tinkering with this thing, off and on, since 2014. At the time I had just started working on Crows. While Crows itself had elements that bubbled in my head for a decade or so and appear on scraps of paper and short stuff, some of which made it to AO3, it was coming down in collected format. And it was terrible.

Way too many people died. It wasn’t driven by ‘art is tragedy’ though that is how I justified it. Nor was it inherently bleak. I was just being lazy.

Character arc I don’t know how to finish? Murder.

Romantic subplot I can’t resolve? Murder.

Personal quest hit a dry spell? Suicide.

History I’m struggling with or national zeitgeist I can’t replicate? Catastrophe.

It was laziness. I was just avoiding resolving issues, and some of that was influenced by something I read a while ago. It might have been The Egypt Game. I read something where a bunch of kids were writing mysteries, and one of the kids had too many murders because she couldn’t resolve her plots. Frankly, that’s what I was doing.

So I thought to myself: Fine. No murders.

None. No killing. No death. No one dies. No good guys die. No bad guys die.

And that lead to Bedtime Stories. And in assuming the constraint, I gained immense freedom. I didn’t have to worry about what was going to happen to Mara, because she was going to make it. I didn’t have to worry about the trolls, because they were going to be fine. And I could raise the stakes beyond reason. There’s an old logic puzzle about Achilles in a race, and he can’t finish because if he runs half the distance to the end, he will never get there. He can only run half the distance. That was my game. I could raise the stakes half-way to death, and halfway again, and halfway again, but no one dies.

There is an asterix, but that’s not necessarily in the story.

And BS is now done. BSFinalFinal1.6.1.docx is gone. It is out. The final draft (version 4+) has been sent.

I’ll get it back, revise, all that, but it’s outside my hands now.

And I’m done. I went final final on 60k words in less than forty hours. I’m oddly drained. My sleep cycle is a catastrophe. But BS is in someone else’s hands for now.

#

The Bloodharvest physical proof is on my table. I’ve got some stuff to fix, and it will be up on Amazon soon. I’m going with Amazon’s pricing. If you want a hardcopy, they’ll be available shortly.

Blindly Falling in Love

Spoilers abound

Blindly Falling in Love is the work of UnicornofAmber. I spend all my time thinking about writing, so I’m going to blather for a while.

The world needs more Amberfic, and by God they’re going to get it!

As the author describes in the summary, Corwin doesn’t interact with Vialle much. He speaks with her once towards the end of the first series, but swiftly discounts her interactions in his somewhat self-absorbed way. It is this egocentrism that defines Corwin and also provides the motivation for much of his evil in the beginning and redemption later one.

However purely selfishly, it also denies us readers a chance to figure out what these other people are doing. Bluntly, what’s up with Vialle? Why does she do what she does? Random himself is imperfectly described, and Corwin takes him to be a little gremlin early. Random’s also capable of casual murder, which sets up some interesting contradictions in Corwin. (Corwin saves the truck driver’s life and then leads a million odd creatures of shadow to their deaths) But with a dearth of detail about Vialle’s feelings for Random and herself nearly a lacuna, their meeting and interactions that prelude Random gaining the Throne of Amber are nothing more than a sense of wonder. We know stuff is going on, but we don’t know what. Into this valley of sonder charges the UnicornofAmber.

Three chapters in, and I get the impression that the author really cares about the characters.

Beginning with the lead herself, Vialle is both interesting and still strangely blank. We learn the how of her personality but not the why. The opening scene, before the wedding, we get little description of how Vialle perceives the world outside of some description of the soundscape, and little description of Vialle by herself. As an aquatic creature, how does she perceive a room? How does she perceive herself? We get insinuations of loneliness, the odd, comfortable loneliness of the long term solitary before losing it, as well as a surge in excitement and trepidation to be married. She’s unhappy to be married to an Amberite but tells herself to be grateful she’s getting married at all. She has a list of names, ready to mind, of people she can’t marry. She violently reacts to her own reactions. There’s a lot of good internal conflict in there, and internal conflict is as delightful to read as it is unpleasant to feel. Sort of like walking into Mordor, I bet.

The sensation of both excitement and resistance crops up again in the wedding, as she fights Random a split second to ‘see’ him first, and almost immediately kisses him thereafter. One gets an immense feeling of need, like she’s desperate for someone, and when she finds out her someone is Random, she goes all in. Random hasn’t really done much yet, and that’s fine.

Moving on the heart of the story is obviously Vialle’s imprisonment with her husband, and other than an incidental stabbing of Caine, she gets into his prison and he’s a bit horrible. I’m slow to throw stones as Eric does imply he might kill Random, and being jailed under a sword of Damocles might make anyone a bit cranky. Here again Vialle seems to take things in stride.

The obvious purpose of the first chapter is build a character and get her into jail with Random. It works. While details are a little sparse and our narrative is more Hemmingway than Austin, the ride to jail is interesting enough to get things done.

The rest is rough. There’s no sharp scene break between introduction and wedding. We don’t get a description of Vialle, or possibly more revealing, of people like Moire that Corwin’s already described. I kinda wanted to compare and contrast their descriptions. Likewise we don’t even get a description of Random by Vialle’s fingers, and I found that lacking. If she cares, we as the readers care. Likewise, the fight with Caine is truncated. She feels the knife, and then it’s at his throat. She gets the jump on a Prince of Amber, and UnicornofAmber doesn’t narrate it? I wanted a bit more.

But again, in the second chapter with Vialle and Random alone, the fic hits its stride. Again there’s a complex dynamic, but again I don’t have the description I need. I don’t really know what Random sounds like. Is his voice high and nasal? Low? Does he speak fast or slow? This element of showing isn’t included, and while the MC being blind means we don’t get visual descriptions, I wanted some aspect of what does she see. None of that is game breaking, because the dialogue is fast. She and he aren’t together emotionally, but they’re stuck together physically. There’s pressure and tension. They’ve got two beds in the same cell (which I liked a great deal). I wanted a little more setting.

The third chapter is similar. Eric appears but is undeveloped. In the books, Eric is somewhat askance at Vialle, doesn’t want to have an incident with Moire, and his motivations are a blend of selfishness or diplomacy. He doesn’t get a whole lot of screen time.


This ends the review
What follows is advice for UnicornofAmber

If you have a strong plan for what’s ahead, stop reading here. You’ve got a good story. Random and Vialle work, and their interactions are charming. I want to read more. What follows is my reaction to a problem I see coming. Three chapters is early, so you might not go down this road at all nor need my help. You’ve got good stuff here as is, and I think you can develop this a lovely little read.

But if you want some developmental help:

I don’t know why Vialle does what she does. Random isn’t doing anything, because he’s in jail. Eric is undisclosed. Caine’s a sleazeball. Cool, I get all of that, and I buy it, but WHY?

I want to take a moment to talk about plot. There are two basic plots, situational and character driven. Situational plots work best for series and the plot happens to the characters. Think murder mysteries or NGE. Plot happens. “Bob is dead. Who did it?” or “Get in the robot, Shinji!” Things happen to the characters and as a result, things must be done!

The other type is character driven plots. These are better for constrained works, because when the plot is over the book is done. Stand alone narratives work like this and most novels (we’ll pick on Stephen King).

All plots follow the same progression.

1) What does the character want?
2) Why can’t they have it?
The answer to 1 is motivation. The answer to 2 is the plot.

Macbeth:
1) What does Macbeth want?
To be king.
2) Why can’t he have it?
Because Duncan is already King.

So what does Macbeth do? Kills Duncan. (Spoiler, but it was written >300 years ago.) The entire story is the result of this action, and the counter reactions.

When Macbeth gets his crown his motivation changes:
1) What does Macbeth want?
To stay king.
2) Why can’t he have it?
People are investigating him for murder.

Pet Sematary:
1) What does Louis Creed want?
His son back.
2) Why can’t he have it(him)?
His son is dead.

So what does Louis Creed do? Buries his son in the Pet Sematary.

When the character gets what they want, is forever forestalled from getting what they want, or gives up on wanting that thing, the plot is over. Roll credits.

You liked the character of Llewella, so I’ll break her down in the Nine.
1) What does she want?
A) to make a home for herself and B) to be respected
2) Why can’t she have it?
A) She doesn’t feel welcome in Amber nor that she belongs in Rebma and B) Moire is exploiting her power as queen to keep Llewella in her place and C) orcs are attacking

Moire of course sees things very differently, and the magical rings Bleys is handing out like popcorn are totes not involved. You pointed that out yourself.

Obrecht:
1) What does Obrecht want?
Rings of power
2) Why can’t he have it(them)?
Other people have the rings.
What’s he going to do? Bad stuff.

Returning to Falling Blindly in Love,
1) What does Vialle want?
Be with Random.
2) Why can’t she have it?
She can. She does. By the end of chapter 1 she’s with Random.

And…done.

So I’m asking myself, what’s going on? What else does Vialle want, and how is she going after it? What does Random want, and how does Vialle interact with that?

This is the reason I complained above about a lack of detail in Vialle. I don’t know what she wants other than to be with Random, and she is. Since we know the ending, and Vialle and Random will stay together, I don’t know where it’s going to go. They can break up and get back together, but I’d like to know why she wants to be with Random.

Allow me to speculate. Does she have dependency issues? That’s perfectly fine, and perhaps much as she teaches Random not to be a little turd, he teaches her about self worth.

Speculation:
1) What does she want?
To be with a great and mighty prince of amber because she’s worthless (motivation that she must take action to achieve in and of itself).
2) Why can’t she have it?
Because if she doesn’t think she’s worth anything, Random agrees with her and as a Prince of Amber, he’s holding out for someone better.

This leads to conflict (she’s after him and he can’t get away because he’s in jail). Ultimately she has to do great things to get his attention, and he makes her realize she’s a worthwhile person to make her go away. That attacks her motivation, up above. This causes her to undergo catharsis and realize she’s a worthwhile person.

1) Now what does she want?
To be with/repay the person who taught her she was worth something.
2) Why can’t she have it?
She has to persuade him she understands this to catch her man.

This is actually a great plot, and a flip of a common story wherein the man chases the woman. I find the idea of a blind girl chasing a mighty Prince of Amber amusing. She’s also going to have to reach down deep and find inner strength because catching her Prince of Amber won’t be easy.
Then, when she’s with Random, she has achieved her motivation, and her arc is done. Coincidentally, Corwin arrives with guns out of Avalon, and the OS continues.

ON THE OTHER HAND, you can write a plot driven story like NGE or murder mysteries.
1)What does Vialle want?
To stay with Random (motivation that won’t, by itself, induce any action).
2)Why can’t she have it?
The Black Road has brought monsters out of Garnath, and they’re all going to die.

So Vialle needs to save some people, and I don’t know why it would be her instead of the Amberites.
Actually, that’s super obvious. Black Road creatures kidnap Random and his siblings are all perfectly prepared to leave him for dead. Only the blind girl cares. She must follow the Black Road or shadow or wherever to save him.

The more I think about that, the more I like it, and if that’s what you’re going to do, ignore everything above.

Where I’m going with this, all of this, is the character that drives the plot, the main character, the protagonist, must be motivated to achieve, acquire, be, or do something they cannot achieve, acquire, be, or do because of adversity. This is an identity. The character wanting the things and doing the actions to get the things is the protagonist. If Vialle is the protagonist, she must yearn for something she can’t have (at least not at the beginning) because her actions to achieve, acquire, do, or be will be the action of the story. When she, or whomever, gets it, or her motivation changes such that she is no longer taking action to drive the story, her story arc is done.

And now, for GRAMMAR.

I hate it too, but eh.
I strongly recommend:
https://www.septembercfawkes.com/2019/03/how-to-punctuate-dialogue.html

Or buying a copy of Strunk and White: Elements of Style. You should be able to find a used copy for a couple bucks, and it’s probably the best and most useful book on English grammar there is.

Big or major words in the title should be capitalized.

Blindly Falling in Love

All dialogue needs truncating punctuation. If it is followed by a dialogue tag (he said, she said, he muttered, he continued) wherein the verb is a synonym of said, use a comma for the bridge and a period at the end. The word that follows the comma is not considered the beginning of a sentence, so only capitalize if you would normally.

He said, “Janice, I shot a man today.”

“I know,” she replied.

See commas? The intervening comma replaces a period. The closing period remains.

For action tags that tell the reader who’s doing the talking but are not themselves dialogue, use periods. Interpret this strictly. It comes across as being very strange. For example, one cannot laugh dialogue. One can say dialogue while laughing but not well

“If you tell anyone, I’ll kill you.” He got up and pointed at her with his knife.

“You don’t have the balls.” She laughed.

If the comma would be a punctuation mark other than a period, use that instead.

“Never say that to me again!” he yelled.

“What are you going to do, coward?” she asked.

Show, don’t tell.

Telling: While singing Vialle noted that Random’s breathing slowed down completely, indicating to her that he was finally asleep.

Showing: While singing Vialle noticed Random’s breathing slowed. Every third breath emerged as a snore, and in his sleep he whistled.

Use forms of to be, such as was, and setup verbs, such as begin, less.

“Alright.” nodded Vialle as she strode back to the table to search for an apple and began to take a bite out of it.

“Alright.” Vialle nodded as she strode back to the table to search for an apple. She took a bite.

(Notice the adjustment of the descriptor action. One cannot nod words outside of perhaps Morse Code, and I don’t think that’s what was going on here)

I don’t want to go into too much more depth, because grammar and style become inextricable quickly, and my style may not work for you. But never be afraid to use said nor use a more flowery term because you feel like said is getting boring. Many authors exclusively use said. I disagree with that entirely but do think said should be the default dialogue verb, perhaps aside from asked for questions.

Anyway, good luck and happy writing.

Corwin

I did the Incline Friday. I do it fairly regularly, on the order of a few times a month. It took a piece out of me as usual.

Corwin’s about to bolt up the stairway to Amber, carrying Orak, pursued by Gogomoth, and I have no way of telling you all how absolutely bonkers that is.

Theme

If the Nine is dark it’s not because of the killings, it’s because of the jokes.

Burnout

When I get burned out, it’s because I’m doing so much work I don’t have time to do the work I want to do.

I had a job recently which was a great job: good coworkers, boss, pay, etc. But because of the way the contract was structured, I didn’t get to do a whole lot and often couldn’t do what anything directly. I had to watch others or prepare for others. I got burned out something fierce.

Right now I’m over committed with my free time. Employment is whatever, but I’m pushing the Nine, trying to shape Bedtime Stories up into the final draft (Final Draft #4, so yeah), and writing Death Mountain. A couple of side stressors, get into better shape and not spend money, are hardly unique or especially challenging, but screwing around and spending money were two things I could do that I liked to do. I am now broke, so obviously that’s not so good on the planning end.

I’ve also noticed that often I do nothing, spend a lot of time doing it, and then don’t have time to do things I want to do. I always thought this was me being ridiculous, but I’ve read about the same phenomena from CS Lewis and Marcus Aurelius.

However it happens, this feeling results in intense feelings of powerlessness that initiate burnout. The solution seems to be work more, but work smarter and harder. I am not sure how this is done.

Which of course I wouldn’t be. If I knew how to work smarter, I would, but that itself is a learning process and a lengthy goal.

All of this is a lengthy way of saying nothing, but it’s what I’m thinking about.

I visited Evergreen Library today, a bit outside Denver but not far. It’s amazing. A deer and her fawn nested ten feet from the windows, and I got a table with natural sunlight and a view of trees. Powered through my two hours of DM, which is steadily contracting in productivity as I try to work out all the little plot holes. After that I went and roamed, and wound up driving up Mt Evans. The highest paved road in the US services the peak, and at the top it was sub freezing with biting wind. I had no clothes or boots, so I did no hiking. The road is CO RT 103, Squaw Pass. It’s worth a trek, but be careful. The road isn’t well paved, and its busy with cars, bikers, and wildlife.

It would be interesting to go back, fully prepared, and hike a little in those conditions. That’s good prep for serious mountaineering. But I’d need a buddy and probably a GPS, and I’m not kitted out to undertake such things yet.

The mountains did remind me why I live here. I could see over the shoulders of lesser peaks into Denver sprawled out on the plains, as well as formations of white-bearded old men with their arms linked to the west. I saw the Sangre Cristo Basin (I think) spread out, mountains on either side, and tall purple shadows in the distance. They really do look like phantoms standing in a line.

Mountains are weird. They don’t look like peaks, but rather low bumps on brown fabric, the green stopping far below and the white only frosting the tips.

Mountain goats aren’t. A pack of them, five or six, blocked a road for a while, and they looked exactly like you’d think. If you have a picture of ‘big goat’ in your head, that’s a mountain goat. Don’t embellish; you’ve already got it.

Thanks

To begin with, thank you UnicornofAmber and Raksha_The_Demon for kudos and comments. I appreciate it a great deal.

I never know what to say on here. I think writing about writing is a bit self-indulgent, but my plate is so full I have little time to do anything else. I rode La Veta Pass (Old) which was delightful, and worth doing. I might have blown a shock later, but we’ll see. Lovely area. I want to go back and check out the Highway of Legends, which I only briefly traversed.

The NC700 might not be the best for long road trips, but it is what I have. It’s a great bike, a jack of all trades.

AO3 typography

First, thank you to the guest who left kudos on the Nine!

Secondly, I want to talk typography.

I commonly use two non-standard characters. The first is the EM or M dash depending on what you read, which is two hyphens stuck together. Both AO3 and LC have difficulty representing EM dashes, and AO3 tends to show it as two special characters stuffed together. You can find this in my stuff. –, but the dashes have little tails. I forget the name for them.

The other is accent marks, such as in Numenor or NĂºmenor. I’ve had problems with them rendering on AO3 as well, but LC seems to use them fine. What’s weird is that sometimes the accents come through without a problem and sometimes they don’t. I don’t know if specific accents work and some don’t, or if the ALT codes LC and AO3 use are different, or what.

The punchline here is that I try not to use any weird characters except for EM dashes. This does mean I intentionally misspell some names. It’s a lesser of two evils type thing. Would you rather see N%n23menor sometimes or Numenor all the time, given I don’t really know exactly what procs the issue? The dashes don’t get used in words, so I’m leaving them alone.

Edit: In paragraph three, I used two hyphens and WordPress corrected that to the EM dash. Interesting.

Thanks

Did I miss thanking a guest for leaving kudos on the Nine? I can’t tell. If I did, know that I deeply regret this ingratitude. I owe you a debt, and in a time of darkness, I will arrive to pay.

Unless I’m playing in character in which case I’ll probably, like, burn your village down and steal all your gold. But I’ll do it gratefully!

Unrelated, I really want to watch the Hobbit: DoS again. Seriously, arguments about timing and bloat aside, Smaug is the best dragon in film. The old animated Hobbit is the runner up. Hollywood, make me more dragon movies!