Rob’s Update: Waiting for Spring

Week of 26 March – 1 April

Greetings all

Saturday will be the memorial for my dad. Yes, April 1st. Given his love for dad jokes, it seemed appropriate. Besides, it was a day the church had open. I’ll be saying something. Not sure what something yet. What does one say, really? I can figure out that Monty Python’s Dead Parrot sketch is probably inappropriate. As is just about anything from the Holy Grail. Beyond that? I’m sure I’ll come up with something, but I may not even know until I’m standing up there.

Glad the SCA has given me a lot of experience talking in front of people.

It’s been a productive week. Where Now the Rider is at the stage where I’m going through and inserting clues and red herrings so there’s a proper trail of bread crumbs. The goal, of course, is for you to have the possibility to figure out the villain, but make it very difficult.

My editor can take it at the end of April, so I’m going to finish a draft next week, take a break for a week or so, then polish it for a week before sending it to Kellie.

What I’ve done since I’ve taken my foot off that pedal is to start seriously plotting books 2 & 3 of the Kreisens series, the series that started with I Am a Wondrous Thing. The working titles will be Brief is My Flame and None Call Me Mother. These are working titles and might change, but I like them, especially with some of the tribulations Irina and Eleonore are going to face. I’m plotting both of them, by the way, because when writing I Am a Wondrous Thing I sort of floundered about in terms of pacing. I’m still mostly a pantser (a writer who writes by the seat of his pants), but at least having a basic outline might help. I’ve had nebulous ideas all along, but I want to firm them up some.

Of course, I’ll change them all the time. But at least they’ll be something I *know* I’m changing.

Anyway, that’s enough for now.
Quote of the Week
I may or may not get anything done on Monday the 3rd. Just warning you. In my mind, the first Monday in April (sometimes the last Monday in March) should be a national holiday. It’s baseball Opening Day, and I’m only halfway joking about the national holiday thing.

Opening Day has a magic about it. It’s a day of comfort, a sure sign of the end of winter and a return of the poetry of the game. It’s a day of hope, because on that day every team is in the playoff race and every fan can imagine a way, if things come together just right, their team can make it to the playoffs, and if that happens, who knows?
On Opening Day, though, it’s fresh again. Checking box scores has not yet become routine again. It’s like sleeping in your own bed for the first time after a long trip. You know it’ll become part of the routine again, and you’ll like it then too, but not with the snuggly, burrowing feel of that first night.

Why not have a holiday celebrating comfort, hope, and the return of spring?

“People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.”
– Rogers Hornsby

News and Works in Progress

  • Finishing Where Now the Rider
  • Plotting Brief is My Flame and None Call Me Mother
Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

  • Nothing new this week. I’ll be adding a batch of updates to the wiki to catch up with things in Where Now the Rider.
Upcoming Events
Spotlight
I listen to a lot of folk metal like Tyr, Korpiklaani, and Tengger Cavalry. Not surprisingly, I often fall into the rabbit hole of YouTube going from band-to-band. One of the things I love is the use of medieval and traditional instruments in hard-driving music. This past week I ran into Sventoyar, a Ukrainian folk metal band who has a person routinely playing the hammered dulcimer. It will come as no surprise to many that amongst my friends in the SCA is a professional hammered dulcimer player.
Since I teased him that Sventoyar might have supplanted him as my favorite musical act with a hammered dulcimer, this week my spotlight is on Vince Conaway. He’s a fantastic musician, and one of the great parts of Gulf Wars to me was working in Drix’s shop when he was playing nearby.

Anyway, you can find his stuff at: http://www.vinceconaway.com/.
Let me know if you have any suggestions on the website, this email, or cool story ideas at rob@robhowell.org. Especially let me know of suggestions you have for the Spotlight section.

Have a great week, everyone.

Rob Howell
Author of the Shijuren-series of novels

Currently Available Works

If you think you received this email incorrectly or wish to be unsubscribed, please send an email to shijuren-owner@robhowell.org

Rob’s Update: Heres-wise and Theres-wise

Week of 19-25 March

Greetings all

The title of this update is something I had fun writing in Where Now the Rider. I love playing with language, which can sometimes get me into trouble as my writing can get too poetic, but here it serves as a fun dialectical saying by a guy who works as a courier. “I’m as one who’s just wantin’ to be takin’ messages heres-wise and theres-wise and keepin’ me nose outs of things. It’s as somethin’ folk is payin’ for, see?” After the last few weeks, I’m tired of going heres-wise and theres-wise and ready to be home for a while.

Since my last update, I went to CoastCon in Biloxi, Gulf Wars in Hattiesburg, and had a bit of a writer’s retreat. I’ve listed my AARs for both events in the Recent Blog posts section. Only a couple of thousand miles this time, not four like in January, but still enough I’m glad to be home.

Most of my time has been focused on Where Now the Rider. As I mention in my Gulf AAR, I am finding that my plots are getting more complex, meaning I’m spending longer making sure the chapters are arranged properly, meaning lots of fussing with fiddly bits and fixing plot holes. I’ve made huge progress and am flowing well and I’ll have my copy to my editor by the end of next week. And this time I mean it.

One piece of exciting news is that David has invited me back to join Write Pack Radio (https://www.facebook.com/WritePackRadio/) again. In fact, we’re tentatively scheduled to have me join them for multiple episodes in 2017. I’m excited and honored that they want me back. As those tentative dates and topics get firmed up, I’ll put them here.

On my blog, I just made an entry I would love to see from some of my favorite writers do. I put up an annotated snippet from Where Now the Rider where I discuss a number of the choices I made as a writer. You can find that entry at http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=565 and I’d love some feedback if that is something you might want to see more of. Snippets, of course, but do you all want to see the annotations?

Well, that’s enough. Now back to fiddling with the fiddly bits.

Quote of the Week

Times like this when I’m pounding away I think of something Holly Lisle said. Mostly it fills me with inspiration, but there are times that the mountain I look up and see how much I need to get better fills me with desperation, but it always makes me take a harder look at what I’m writing.

Writing is a puzzle you’ll spend your lifetime unlocking. You will never know it all; you will never know enough. You can always be better, and figuring out how to be better is part of the thrill and joy of the job.

– Holly Lisle

News and Works in Progress

  • Still pounding away at Where Now the Rider

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events
Spotlight

At large SCA events, I have the opportunity to sell my books and even work on the next novel thanks to the generosity of Steve Boyd, the owner and proprietor of Calontir Trim. He sells, shockingly enough, trim for clothing by the yard. He’s got so many choices, the best way to describe them is in rhyme:

One trim
Two trim
Red trim
Blue trim
Black trim
Queue trim
Old trim
New trim
This one has a little star
This one is from afar
Say! What a lot
Of trims there are
And if you know Steve, otherwise known as Master Andrixos, you’ll know just how appropriate filking Dr. Seuss is for him. In any case, I heartily suggest you look at his offerings at www.calontirtrim.com.

Let me know if you have any suggestions on the website, this email, or cool story ideas at rob@robhowell.org. Especially let me know of suggestions you have for the Spotlight section.

Have a great week, everyone.

Rob Howell
Author of the Shijuren-series of novels

Currently Available Works

If you think you received this email incorrectly or wish to be unsubscribed, please send an email to shijuren-owner@robhowell.org

Where Now the Rider Annotated Snippet 1

Greetings all

As I’m getting closer to having Where Now the Rider, I thought I’d release some of it into the wild. I also think it might be interesting to you if I annotated some of my thoughts as to why I made some  of the choices I did.

This first snippet is the start of Chapter 1. I’ll add annotations indented and in italics.

Early Morning, 1 Hjerstmoanne, 1712 MG

Many of you will remember that The Eyes of a Doll ended on 30 Heamoanne. This is the very next day. I could, obviously, have chosen a different day to start, but I think this scene is important for Edward, as you’ll see.

Unfortunately, that provided me with a challenge. Edward is wounded at the end of The Eyes of a Doll and he cannot have healed fully in a day. That meant that whatever his next adventure would be it required him to be capable of handling while not fully healthy, at least at the start. I actually have 10-15k of the next novel written because what I started with required him to be fully healthy at the beginning. Where Now the Rider became a completely different story because of this challenge.

I gripped the hilt of my saex tightly, tensing to draw it and let blood run along the water pattern in the steel.

“You’re a fool, Sevener.”

I originally chose to design Edward’s homeland after the Heptarchy, the time in Anglo-Saxon history when they had seven different kingdoms. After I switched it to plain English and called it the Seven Kingdoms, I was pleased to find the epithet “Sevener” come so easy to the tongue.

The rage that filled me blocked the words so that I barely heard the familiar voice. Rage at my lover, who had betrayed me. Rage at my friends, who had betrayed themselves. Rage at the emperor for corrupting them. And rage at myself, for—, well for reasons I could not fathom, but rage nonetheless.

The voice spoke again, “Edward?”

This time the voice penetrated enough that most of the rage slipped away, leaving pain in its place. Pain on my left where a blade had nicked my kidney but a few days ago. Pain in my shoulder when a different blade had slid past the bone and through the meat. Without magic, I would be dead, but magic could only do so much. I almost welcomed the pain, given my rage, but even then I knew how stupid it was. I slowly released the hilt and moved my good hand to rest on the parapet in front of me. Without my right arm twisted around my back, my left shoulder and side relaxed and much of the pain went away.

“You really are a fool, Edward.”

“I had to send her away. Gibroz will kill her if he can.” I looked over the wall above South Gate in Achrida. The wall’s crenellations hid the face that had been speaking to me. It mattered little, though, because I knew the sardonic smile that Hecatontarch Piriska Mrnjavcevic wore right then.

Gibroz, by the way, is one of the few names that I did not pull from a list of real names. It’s completely made up, though it is based on something in particular. One of my inside jokes, actually, that I will encourage my readers to figure out.

 “Not that, idiot. You explained all that last night while you cried into Ragnar’s rakija. No, I mean standing here right now.”

Rakija, like all of the food and drink in my novels, is real. As a foodie, one of the fun parts of writing is scouring through traditional dishes to add, for lack of a better word, flavor to my novels. I actually intend to put recipes for things like ajvar and zelniks on my wiki entry for those things one of these days.

Off in the distance, I could still see two tiny black shapes kicking up dust in the dry summer morning. Then they turned past a hill and I would never see my lover again. I had no need to watch the caravaners jockeying for position or listen to their vicious cursing at each other, so I straightened up. The wound on my side protested again. I desperately wanted to scratch it, but fortunately the sling holding my left arm prevented me from scratching it.

As I said, I think this scene is important for Edward. He has to physically watch Gabrijela leave. I may be wrong, but I also think it’s important for my readers to see her leave.

One of the reasons I think that’s true is that Gabrijela is not out of the overall story of Shijuren and the Empire of Makhaira. She’s too interesting of a character to simply let her go. What her adventures will be is yet to come, however.

“I guess…” I reached back again, this time just to caress the hilt of my saex. The one constant in my life. “I guess I just needed to be here.”

I’ve used “saex” a couple of times already in this snippet. This is a place where my editor and I disagreed. I came up with that particular spelling as a transliteration of the aesc vowel that is the proper vowel in the word. It’s how I spell every aesc when I don’t actually use the proper letter, the squished “ae” you might be familiar with. However, Kellie told me the proper spelling now is “seax.”

I liked my spelling better so I kept it, even if I’m wrong.

Gabrijela had seen me standing on the gate as she passed through, but she had done nothing. I would not have known what to say if she had. I had sent her away because I loved her, but I could never trust her again. Nor could I trust the Emperor that had ruined her life simply to serve his madness.

Now I saw the sardonic smile as Piri turned to me. “I didn’t say it was the wrong choice, only that you’re a fool.” She had earned that smile on dozens of battlefields and in years of training new warriors.

I nodded sadly. “I suppose.” I looked back over the wall. “I just didn’t know what else to do.”

Piri said nothing as she led me down from the battlement. My bencriht thegn, Maja Mrnjavcevic, waited for us, restless as always. She started to say something, but Piri quelled her with a sharp look and led us back up the Trade Road.

Maja is an interesting character to me. I really like her potential for growth and someday she might be an even bigger character in Shijuren than Edward, assuming I don’t kill her off. I don’t plan to, but I might change my mind. And accidents happen. I’ve already killed a character in I Am a Wondrous Thing that I didn’t mean or want to. However, circumstances dictated it.

I followed the hecatontarch in silent thought until she turned off from the road. Given that we had miles to walk before getting to the Square of Legends, I glanced at her.

“We should go visit my uncle now.”

My anger spiked again. “He can wait.”

“You know better. You have to see him, and it should be sooner rather than later.” She laughed. “Especially since you’re likely to just wallow in the Faerie all day, surlier than even Karah on a bad day.”

I just want to make it clear that Karah is *not* modeled on any server that I know. Certainly not the ones at Brewbaker’s that routinely take care of me even though I sit here for hours working whenever I can.

“She has good days?”

“Why don’t you ask her that.” Piri laughed again. “Let me get a beer and get comfortable first, I want to watch that discussion.”

The thought of antagonizing the perpetually grumpy Karah, daughter of Ragnar Longtongue and barmaid of his inn, broke the mood.

“You’re probably right. Vukasin is just the most powerful man in this province. Not near as dangerous as Karah’s wrath.” I smiled wryly. “After all that he has done for me, think he’d appreciate me calling him uncle too?”

She laughed. “Absolutely. He especially enjoys it when hare-brained foreigners take him for granted.”

Overall, I tried to make this opening portion contain a goodly amount of summing up from what happened in The Eyes of a Doll without being pure exposition, while also setting Edward up as somewhat adrift. Part of the challenge writing Edward is that, for my purposes, he needs to stay in Achrida so I can continue to write these novels, but all along I’ve been working to make him have a reason to stay.

In the most simplistic form, A Lake Most Deep trapped him in Achrida for a moment, The Eyes of a Doll cut off his original plans, leaving him adrift, and Where Now the Rider will give him an actual reason to stay.

The rest of Chapter 1, by the way, is the meeting with Vukasin and some hints of what’s to come in this story. I’ll leave that portion for later.

Gulf Wars 2017 AAR

Shall we entitle this year’s Gulf Wars Gulfcicle? Maybe so. It was definitely the coldest Gulf I’ve been to, at least until Thursday. It was colder than several Estrellas I’ve attended, and those were routinely cold.

I never get cold, but this time I did. I could not get warm it seemed. Some of this was my spot in Drix’s booth, which was covered from sunshine but allowed the wind to come in. At night, I was fine in my bed, but during the days I even had to stop typing periodically because my hands were so cold.

I could have bought a hat, or another, heavier cloak, but I hate to buy things I would rarely use. Even if it’s that cold at Gulf next year, even if I knew it would be, I would not have spent money on something I won’t use until then. I did, however, buy my sweetie two yards of heavy wool to put over my chair.

Sales were not wonderful but not bad at all. I still don’t sell as much at Gulf Wars as I do at Kris Kinder, but sales were definitely up from last year. Of course, last year I did not have the opportunity to sell during the last day, but the pace was greater than it was on the earlier days. Overall, I netted more than enough to pay for site fee and gas to and from the Gulf Wars site. This is progress, especially since many of the sales were to people I’ve never met before.

During the week I was able to make a bunch of progress on Where Now the Rider. I had hoped to finish it while in Biloxi, but it’s trickier than I expected to get this paced right.

I’ve noticed on both Where Now the Rider and I Am a Wondrous Thing that it took me much longer than expected to deal with all the fiddly bits, especially the arrangement of chapters. I think it’s because I’m becoming a better writer and have more complex plots. A Lake Most Deep has a fairly straightforward plot. The Eyes of a Doll is less so, but still not particularly complex. Neither of those required as much time messing with the pacing. I just need to expect this time and adjust my preconceptions.

At this point I have about half of it locked into place, and about another third locked into place relative to a chapter before or behind it. I have about 3.5 chapters more to write to fill in some gaps I’ve found, and then cut some because it’ll be a bit long once those are done. Not much, though, as my editors always find some bloat. Shocking, I know.

I was pleased to have a couple of really good opportunities to sing. This year, the Calontir party was the same night as Moonlight Madness, and so I did not get to attend. I came back from selling and promptly went to bed. However, Thursday and Friday were wonderful. I expected more socializing on Saturday, but only because I did not anticipate getting packed out. However, with help, I was able to be on the road at 8ish and got to a hotel room in Jackson. It was so nice to be able to make it home yesterday, which I might not have been able to do if I’d packed down in the morning.

My only other SCA-like doings at Gulf Wars was judging in the A&S championship. I don’t actually know who won the championship, but I sure think one of the entries I judged could have. The person, I don’t know who yet, did a series of experiments making pigments for scrolls using period materials and techniques. It was fabulous re-creation archaeology. I don’t like giving perfect scores to any entrant, but it was truly amazing work and I was fascinated to read the process.

I’m hoping I can get in better shape that by next year I can add fighting back into my Gulf, without costing me too much shop time. We’ll see.

Overall, Drix’s booth has been an excellent place for me. I was able to work on the book, get a lot of traffic, and have all my needs covered. Miriam, Claudia, and Thyri are fun to work with. I do need to get a more mad tunic. Be afraid, be very afraid.

I came back to home to a busy week, added on to by the fact that my garage door broke while I was gone. I’ve a guy coming to fix it tomorrow, but I’ll just deal with my laundry in a day or so.

For now, though, it’s time to get back to Where Now the Rider.

 

CoastCon AAR

Greetings all

I attended CoastCon in Biloxi, MS this weekend as part of my longer Gulf Wars trip. I’m now spending the week in Biloxi, looking out over the Gulf coast. Today the Gulf is restless with a 23mph wind out of the southeast. It’s 72, but it feels much chillier as the wind picks up water from the Gulf and carries in onshore.

Quite nice in a brisk way, actually, but it’s going to be a rainy week. My sunny days here I spent inside at the con. Ah well.

The con was quite enjoyable, if not terribly productive. It was fairly small, and I only had two panels. Hence, I had a lot of free time.

Fortunately, a couple of days ago, I read an article on Passive Voice about the difference in bookstores as opposed to comic book stores. Brick-and-mortar bookstores are dying while comic stores are often thriving. The reason, according to the writer, is the sense of community that comic stores create. Whether it’s a gaming event, or simply just to hang out and talk to other fans, people go to comic stores to just be there with friends far more than bookstores.

This struck a chord with me, in part because I totally agree with her assessment. I have not done enough to be a part of the science fiction and fantasy gaming community. This is especially silly on my part given the influence of D&D on my writing. I’m not saying only gamers will enjoy my stuff, only that gamers are likely to be some of my strongest readers, if they know I exist.

So, I’m resolved to fix that. Yes, mom, I did just find an excuse to game more often. Especially when I go to a convention and there are people I can hang out with for hours and talk about my books periodically. If I’m not on a panel, gaming is a place for me to meet people.

I know it’s obvious that gaming is a place to meet people. Oddly, it’s because gaming is something I always want to do that has held me back. I go to conventions to work, after all. So, it’s been a bit of an oversight on my part.

But this weekend convinced me I need to be more active in the gaming community, whether in KC or at a con. I spent virtually all of the weekend playing Pathfinder Society games. Pathfinder Society is just that, a society of people playing essentially D&D at cons. In other words, many times it’s the same people at a table, meaning I have a chance to make more meaningful connections. It helps that Pathfinder is one of my favorite games to play and I rarely get the opportunity.

In any case, I had a good time, but more importantly, made some connections and even sold some books immediately.

And I have some potential ideas to do some crossover things in the future.

When I wasn’t gaming, I did have two panels. Now, I must say that the way CoastCon set up their panels seemed odd to me. They consisted of one speaker, not three or four. In other words, it was me talking for an hour. More teaching a class than a collection of ideas.

Fortunately, I’ve taught a class or two here and there.

The first panel was about Blending Noir in Science Fiction and Fantasy. I’ve talked about this before and will again, but this time I had to structure it a little more precisely. I only had three attendees, which actually turned out pretty good as I pulled them close and I led them in a discussion. I think it went well.

The second panel involved adding history to fiction. I really enjoyed this one and all of the seven attendees said it worked well. What I decided to do was recount the Martin Koszta Affair of 1853 and, as I did so, look for things that could inspire plot points or worldbuilding. I’d like to do this one again, even though it does require me to be the lone panelist, or at least just me and maybe a moderator to prime the audience’s pump for questions or comments here or there.

Overall, the con itself was very small and the venue was too large. It was at the Gulf Coast Convention Center and CoastCon was only one of four events happening there this weekend. There was the Everything Embroidery convention. I’ll wait a moment for all the embroiders out there to catch their breath. Yes, there was a time when a huge embroidery convention happened in the same building as a SF/F/gaming convention happened. Yes, you could have done both, or dropped the significant other off at CoastCon.

In any case, on Saturday there was also a Monster Truck thing in the Arena, and in the end of the convention center was the Seabee Ball.

Yes, parking on Saturday sucked, why do you ask?

Not only was the parking on Saturday inconvenient, I suspect that hurt attendance at the con. I can absolutely envision some people who wanted to get a Saturday-only pass to the con coming to the parking lot, finding there’s a parking fee (which was waived for people with weekend passes to CoastCon), and deciding not to attend after all.

I don’t know that I’ll ever come back to CoastCon. I only came this year because it was the week before Gulf Wars, meaning I could drive here, stay here, and then go an hour north to the event. I used Airbnb for the first time and found a condo across from the beach for $433 for 9 days, which is even better when you factor in it has a real kitchen and a washer/dryer. It’s small, but no smaller than a hotel room and I’ve saved some money by eating in.

The schedule might work again next year, so it’s not out of the question, but it’s also true that the weekend after Gulf Wars is MidSouthCon in Memphis. I might be able to find a place in Memphis for the week or possibly crash space.

I will say I’ve enjoyed the condo here. Part of it is the idea of staying in the same place for 9 straight days. If I’m calculating correctly, this is only the second such stretch in 2017.

We’ll see how productive I am this week. Early returns are very productive, given what I’ve done since the end of the con yesterday. I think I’ve got a good shot at finishing Where Now the Rider this week. If I do, then this week has been worth the price.

I think it’s time for me to take a nap so I can write again this evening. Have a great day.