Commentary III:27

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Forgive me, but this week’s commentary proved a rough one for me, and I find there is a lot to unpack if I want to finally address an elephant in the room, and must start somewhere that may seem strange.

Horrors Cloaked in Shadows of Light

Gender is a powerful force in social construction. A dividing line, and a wedge between people. While it is quite central to the conflicts of O&E, I will wager no more so than it actually is in our own. That there is a shroud of illusion from sanding off all the edges of life to make things safe, or tacking on spikes to make it edgy.

What does this have to do with this chapter? Everything.

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Book III: Foreword


For all the futures left behind,
in the name of one we chase.

New Readers Consider: The Story So Far: Book II

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There is a saying, that blood buys time.  Not an overly kind sentiment, but true, by most historic record.  An enemy beaten bloody, will lay down, and stop fighting.  One way or another.  A conqueror successfully defied, will give pause.  Insure victory in the next contest.  Millions dead.  Well, that might just buy generations of tentative peace.

The blood of a forsaken heir, decades.  That of innocents and malcontents.  A few years.  The blood of a wedding night, and a child, a few more.  The death of twelve souls; a Queen, a Council Mage, and an adorned knight, slow the inevitable crawl of bureaucracy.  Slow, but not stop.

Prophecy has divided twins.  Changed them into women of night and day.  Worry and disquiet driven a further wedge, and distance between them.  Fate still spirals around the Ashtons, but blood, has bought time.  Even if all the world feels a gnawing call.  An urgency, like time is running out.

Five years have passed.  Tiny Avrale remains isolated from the wider world.  No direct communication with Mordove.  Limited trade as caravan masters think twice before intruding on uncertain grounds.  A Court Mage, still stands in the long and now mysterious absence of her mentor.  The center cannot hold.  The world itches to move on.

In such perilous times, it would be far too easy to declare Avrale in violation of treaty.  Sacrifice her in appeasement of Osyrae’s hunger for conquest.  The Council, is after all, dedicated to peace, not war.  No one is sure what kind of escalation would finally cross an ever rising threshold for intervention.  For in truth, if one discounts the unproven, they have not openly broken the treaty.

Forces are shifting.  Bandits plague lands that have always been quiet.  An Archdruid moves like a dignitary.  The Storm Queen has closed her borders, as an impossible tree can be seen to rises above southern horizons.  Nohlend denies being under siege by Sylvan forces.  The free cities have fallen.  Refugees from the north, perilously cross deep ocean lanes to seek, shelter in Carth, and spill over into Wesrook.

Yet life, indifferent to the shadows of a war that never quite comes, carries on.  What can three gifted souls do, in the face of armies, dragons, and prophecies that offer no answers.  Only beg terrifying questions.

Stray Thoughts

I’ve said before, I’ll say it again.  I found myself writing Accidental YA, and what to do with that I still don’t know.  Order & Entropy is a world born of authorial exploration, stray musics of ethos and value.  It is a world far more complex than we readily think appropriate for children.  It is a world filled with passions both pious and perennial.  Ambitions, and desires.  Only as safe as we fool ourselves to think it is.  Just like our own.

It is a hard thing sometimes to be comfortable with my choices.  That the musings of a lost lover did spur me to consider so much of what underpins this massive endeavor.  So much of what we do, so much of our norms, our taboos, our actions, and expressions are rooted in this fundamental part of our organic existence.  These things we spend so much time running from, or towards.  Utterly confused between the animal and the angel.

My twins were always these women.  My intentions always to write serious fiction in which a fundamental aspect of human life, is treated exactly the way we treat it.  Messy, complicated, profound, foolish, unwise, wonderful, dangerous, biased, shameful.  Its there, theres no getting around it, and some of us, are more or less comfortable about the mater, or admitting the truth.  People live and die for this.  People fight, and kill for this.  People reject their own blood, for this.  Empires rise, and fall, for this.  Perhaps we fear it for good reason.  We are so easily so immature about it, because we hide from it.

All at while I live in this world, and with the realities we do.  I have the authorial aesthetics that I do, and desire to write to a broad audience, even when I am already quite niche.  Too heady and intellectual.  Blending sci-fi like elements into a pure fantasy world.  This is not a place I wish to readily digress into repetitive descriptions of carnal acts, as much as I seem determined to delve extensively into all the humanity around them.

Katrisha was always this woman, and I won’t permit myself to change her.  These characters, have taken on a life of their own, but I must own that they began more human than some simple archetype.  That the roles we step into, we bring something of ourself into.  I have tied a beautiful and tangled knot.  One that would not be, if not for a simple choice.  A or B.  The answer in my heart was, and still remains, “If it is a choice, then a thousand times B.”

What we can expect, as we journey together into known, and unknown waters of Book III, is more of the same, but different.  I am writing the tale of youth trapped in the shadows of prophecy.  Of a woman who literally loves at the drop of a hat, of her sister who can’t imagine opening herself up so easily, and their brother, who is caught far more closely up in these perilous times than I had previously imagined.  There will be metaphysics, and portents, passion, and strife.  People will make choices, for good or ill.  Driven by a diverse background of perspectives, and ambitions.

Now I move on from the Accidental YA I wrote, to the New Adult I first set out to write.  I’ll just have to ask forgiveness, because I sure am not asking permission.

Chapter 17

A rose by any other name,
has the same thorns it seems,
a Clarion that calls itself a mage,
or a mage to so proudly preach,
a useful and troublesome thing,
these arcanists of northern ways.

– Ralias Ander, Dean of the Imperial Academy, circa 120 E.R.

Pupils and Masters

Vhalun 14th, 649 E.R.

Katrisha sat on the outer wall of the upper courtyard, fiddling absently with an intricate array of spiraling spheres.  She adjusted the spectacles balanced on her nose as they slipped out of alignment. She didn’t really need them outside of reading, but had taken to wearing them most of the time any way, deciding the clarity was worth the fuss.  There was also something to appearing unconventional amongst the other members of the court, in a way at least that was accepted, even perhaps approved of. They were terribly unstable however, and did not want to stay put. Moriel had never seemed to have such trouble, or even to wear his with a chain.  She riddled over the question of how he had managed it.

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Chapter 15

Always it comes back to this,
all the petty empty little games,
dances with sword spell or pen,
some we lose some we win.

Ever a battle for supremacy.
Any a less a moral man than me,
would take more direct opportunity.

Far too well I come to understand,
the choices made by those before.
Lest such heartless days return,
I relent to fight their little wars.

– attributed to Emperor Corinth, 95 E.R.

Little Wars

What once had been brush had long since been replaced with sticks wedged in the pocked and battered ground.  At first it was just more wanton destruction.  Then the sticks were topped with tattered strips of red and blue – made from old sheets dyed and torn into strips.  The arrangements kept changing.  At first there had been a straight line, then a ragged one, then ever more scattered clumps of forces.

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The Creative Process & Young Love

The core story of O&E has been settled for about six years now, but they say the Abyss is in the details.  When Cassandra first uttered her prophetic ramblings in the streets of Brokhal, was when I first truly grasped the underpinnings of the tale I was weaving.  All at once I would argue my interest has always been in the simple humanity of my star crossed heroes.  Destined to uncommon deeds, and troubling ends.

The whole of the first draft for the original Book 1 (now Book 1 & 2) was a “mere” 135k words.  Each of the halves I split the tale into are now as long, or longer than the original manuscript, and sometimes I still feel that I am rushing things.  Telling a story woven across decades, following the course of my heroes from practically birth to their prophesied fates has certainly proven a challenge to balance.  I may one day do yet another pass, adding more abridging text to the longer stretches of skipped time, or where dates alone do not convey the break between events.  Evening out my mysterious narrator, who usually does a good job of staying neutral.  If anything I long to show some more subtle cracks in that facade, than clean up the ones that appear.

There have been many changes along the way, but as the analogy occurs for poor old Ezik, all has been in service of cutting the course deeper, and defying the rains to change a thing.  That said, Book 1 got far more love than Book 2 in the years I sat, and noodled with the manuscript and dates (I trimmed 400 years off the calendar at some point.)  Book 2 I have found around the middle, and into the latter half developed some problems.  Logistical miss matches of time.  While I am excited about the content that is filling the gaps, and think with some confidence that I am telling an even more compelling story, and will hopefully meet my deadlines, I do worry.

I am currently racing the clock, and trying to complete Book 2 by adding roughly two chapters worth of content, maybe a little more, into the middle.  Hopefully without dropping publishing cadence.  All in an effort to smooth out time, and make the twins years apart feel more substantial, and meaningful.  I do worry though that this fresh content, however compelling, may show some seams.  It will not have the years of editing passes behind it that earlier content has.

This further puts at risk Book III’s time table, since all my free time and energy is going into Book II currently, when I had hoped to perhaps finish Book III while I was publishing Book II.  A task that looks less, and less likely, but a bridge I will just have to cross when I come to it.

At any rate, I hope you will all indulge me some failures, and please, offer critique where something seems confusing, or out of place.  I really do want to hear what my readers think, and get this right.  So let me tackle some things that are troubling me:

Spoiler Warning: Discussing content for readers up to Book II: Chapter 8, slight allusions to future content without specifics.

I particularly hesitate around some moments that make me as an author uncomfortable.  I honestly get angry that they make me uncomfortable.

From such things as daring to even allude to menstruation, and there will be one more mention that naturally falls out of dialogue in Chapter 11.  This shouldn’t bother me, it actually doesn’t bother me, but it does make me self-conscious.  It actually makes me very mad that it does.  I fret, and worry about making silly squeamish male readers cringe, and on the other side that where it occurs in The Winter Frost is meant to be a painfully awkward, touching, and yes intimate moment between two friends who wind up (later) lovers.  This all gets inextricably tied up with so many hangups in our society, and I grudgingly embrace that all the more means it needs to be there.

I am literally playing here with the fantasy for many women of being rid of this nuisance in their lives (which in our world can sometimes be done with alternative versions of birth control – oh wait, relevant…) all the while shifting the trouble onto something that requires time, and attention.  While I totally romanticize this scene, I do so more as a stumbling block, because dear fates how ever much Celia is more certain at the end she loves Katrisha, and however little shame has been put on her over the topic, she just can’t bring herself to reveal her heart under the circumstances.  Which makes it harder over all.

If anyone noticed, yes I am intentionally playing with seasons and cycles here.  With winter ending, spring coming, and “skipping the fall.”  I also very much wanted to explore the mechanics of how people use their gift having subtle effects.  From mage blood poisoning screwing up Katrisha’s health, and delaying development, to Wren developing very early, to Celia being ahead of Katrisha even though she was behind Wren.

Now – onto the other side here.  Yes, lesbian (or should I say Lycian) romance.  I am apparently intent on making this labor of love as niche as I can.  I do not want to spoil anything, but I will be plain.  It is going to get so much more complicated than that, and I will be dodging around the minefield of dealing with complex sexuality in what is arguably (if accidentally) young adult fiction.  While moralizing far more ambiguously about society than about the actions of individuals.

I cringe half as much for what I will be cutting out, as for what I will leave in.  So many things that are tempting to lay out flatly, and challengingly, and all at once I am unwilling to derail my content rating on.  I will leave a great deal to the imagination where it belongs, and on the topic of things Katrisha will learn from Celia, I will suffice with the railings of a young Sylvia Grey, some centuries before:

“To think I had imagined not knowing a word for a part of my own body.  I should almost find this preferable to the realization that I knew full well at least three expressions for parts of a boy, and could not say from whence exactly I learned them.  No, worse, was the fact that I did – without context – know a word for my own anatomy.  A word that was a favored slur on my father’s lips for women and men alike.  That so plainly highlighted his innate hatred for women, to at last attach proper definition.  I rail between spite for the abusive misuse, and a wish to scream it from the rooftops until there is no power left but to describe simple fact.  All at once I am bereft of specifics, on the parts, the complexity, of an organ that even the most detailed medical texts reduce inaccurately to a vessel for other things, and not as I have found, a source of joy, particularly in aspects they have willfully forgone to even mention the existence of.”

Fates I love writing in the voice of Sylvia.  So delightfully and justifiably angry that one.

Chapter 17

As the child grows,
any parent knows,
so too the troubles go,

yet a common child,
shall never be so wild,
as those gifted born.

and so mages well beware,
the children you might sire,
or to be mother of the storm.

– Lament of Araena Grey, circa 100 E.R.

Young Troubles

Estae 25th, 645 E.R.

Katrish and Kiannae stood side by side on north balcony above the throne room, watching the proceedings below impatiently.  It was far from the first time, but invariably they grew bored with all the formalities, and repetition.  Grain reports and petty grievances, petitions for justice for minor crimes, and worries both that too much, or too little is spent on the Osyrean border in the north.  Mercu’s tales of Clarion political maneuvering had however piqued their interest to try again, waiting to see if anything would happen.  Nothing really had, not at least on the four occasions they had taken an hour or less to watch since.

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