November 2011

Believe it or not, I did find time to read in November. Books read:

  1. Medieval romance and the construction of heterosexuality. Louise M. Sylvester.
  2. The loathly lady in “Thomas of Erceldoune”. William P. Albrecht.
  3. The Song of Roland. Glyn Burgess, ed.
  4. Fairies in Medieval Romance. James Wade.
  5. Voices. Ursula K. Le Guin.
  6. Bellwether. Connie Willis.
  7. Edgewood. Kelly R. Ledbetter.

Best (only) epic: The Song of Roland
Best (only) sequel: Voices
Best new read: Edgewood

No, I’m not just being biased since Edgewood was written by my best friend. It really is one of the best fantasy novels I’ve read: not only well written, but with beautiful description, excellent storytelling, and a fresh and original story. I inhaled it (I had to, since she only finished it yesterday!). Our novels are going to be competing against each other in the very near future, and I fully expect her to succeed. Well done, Kelly! I look forward to rereading it several more times in the next few months.

50,000 words

At 50,077 words I finished my NaNoWriMo novel THE HERO, or THE KNIGHT WITH THE SWAN.

An excerpt:

“Is that my ward, Mellayne? Who ran away at the beginning of summer? Why, whatever has gotten into you? You used to be such a quiet child,” said the queen. She snapped her fingers. Mellayne gasped and one hand clutched her throat. She bent over, making choking noises.

“Your quarrel is not with Mellayne! Let her be!” commanded Lukas.

Instantly Mellayne stopped choking, but no sound came out of her mouth when she opened it. She leaned against his back, trembling, and gave a great sob.

“No,” said the Queen of Marschon. “My quarrel is with you.”

“Then come down and face me yourself!” shouted Lukas. The Pooka danced, its hooves ringing with his words. “Come, unless you are too much a coward!”

“I am not afraid of you, little knight,” answered the queen. She disappeared into a whirl of smoke and landed in front of him. The Queen of Marschon held a sword. “Now who is the coward?” she asked. “Will you dismount, as an honorable knight should?”

Mellayne tried to hold him back, but Lukas dismounted. He drew his sword, the one given to him by the Mistress of the Night. They started to circle each other. “I will fight you, false traitor, for you have enslaved my people,” he said.

Did Lukas defeat the Queen of Marschon? Did he survive his battle with the basilisk? Well, you will just have to find out.

This month was not without its ups and downs. This was perhaps the most difficult WriMo I’ve had. I was so busy that often my creative well was dry that when I sat down to write I couldn’t come up with anything. My stats page reflects this:

But I still won, because after a few days of resting the creative well would be refilled, and I would write up a storm.

A few more stats:

This is my sixth NaNoWriMo and my ninth WriMo since 2003. Since 2009, I have written four novels. More importantly to me, I have successfully written a four-book series, with interesting and different characters and stories in each. I’m quite pleased, if I may say so myself.

Now, something just as exciting in my point of view: because I finished NaNoWriMo today, and because tomorrow is a university holiday, I am taking the rest of the week OFF. Sleep, glorious sleep!

Thanksgiving

This year was the first year I got to host Thanksgiving. Ros and I invited a bunch of mutual friends — well, we were limited to ten, as that is the maximum amount of people we can squeeze around the table. In attendance were representatives from Americaland, England, Germany, and Poland. It was an interesting meal to cater for four vegetarians and dairy free and various allergies, but we still had quite a feast!

In pictures:

(Autumnal decorations.)


(Lots of choices for beverages.)


(That would be me… carving the turkey.)


(L-R: Kalim, me, Sara, Anna, and Kristin.
Not pictured are Joanna, Allie, Peter, and Ros.)


(Pumpkin pie, apple tart, and chocolate pecan pie.)

Quick update

Hello all.

Thanksgiving on Saturday was a success. I will post pictures later, when I have time. This is just a quick update to say that I love turkey and food, that it’s Advent already, and that I’ve begun the final chapter of my novel and, quite possibly, the series.

I have mixed feelings about this. I am so ready for November to be over. And yet, I am sad about saying good-bye to the Pooka. I suppose it isn’t good-bye really, as I still have to revise the four novels…

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. There are still 4582 words left to write, and three days to write them in. Can I do it? I think so.

Word count: 45,418

Favourite things

Today I am mixing Favourite Things Friday with something I am Thankful for: Technology.

When one lives so far away from what was familiar and home, things like e-mail and Skype become invaluable. I skype with two of my best friends weekly, email with others, and this Thanksgiving, Skype let me play show and tell with my youngest niece and watch my family play Monopoly.

And, I don’t have a photo of her doing this, as she is doing it right now, but one of my other Favourite Things is my housemate, Ros. She has been so supportive and helpful during this insane month of NaNoWriMo, and right now she is baking the pie I was going to make so that I can keep writing my novel. Thank you, Ros!

Word count: 40441

The beginning of it all

Yesterday one of the cornerstones of modern science-fiction passed away. Anne McCaffrey died in her home in Ireland following a stroke at the age of 85. There is not a fan of science fiction or fantasy that I know who did not fall in love with the dragons of Pern or explore the bounds of telepathy with the Rowan or the Ship Who Sang.

Although I loved dragons and science fiction long before I read anything by Anne McCaffrey, it was she who first revealed to me that these things that I loved could be found in books. I remember receiving Dragonsong for Christmas when I was twelve, sitting in the upstairs bedroom (‘my’ room) in the Old House, reading it late into the night. It was one of the few books that as soon as I finished it, I read it again. She awoke my thirst for reading science fiction and fantasy, and also, for writing it. My very first ‘novel’ (that shall never see the light of day) shamelessly borrowed from Pern (and Xena and the NBC miniseries Merlin, but let’s not go there). Although I can point to Peter S. Beagle for my deep love of the high medieval period and the Pooka, to Piers Anthony for my weird way of mixing Greek myths with fairy tales, and to Robin McKinley and Mercedes Lackey for examples of strong, amazing princesses, it was Anne McCaffrey who started it all.

Thank you, Anne. May you rest in peace.

For Writing Wednesday I feel I ought to post an excerpt that has dragons in it, but unfortunately, Uncle Urian the dragon was left behind in Chapter Two. Instead, meet my newest protagonist:

With a start, the swan flapped its wings and was gone into the trees. The Pooka reared in surprise as Lukas drew his sword. “Swan!” he cried. The Pooka turned, leaving the road to chase after the swan. Ahead of them they could see the flash of white hopping and flapping its wings through the underbrush, half-running, half-flying. Suddenly the swan was lost in a flurry of white wings and necks. The Pooka slid to a halt in front a flock of swans, all silently swarming around one swan, rubbing their heads and necks together.

“Swan?” asked Lukas, dismounting.

Out of nowhere a branch swung at his head. Lukas ducked. The Pooka sidled out of the way. When he looked up the branch was swinging back at him, so he stepped aside and grabbed it. The branch struggled against his grip, and it was then that he saw that it was held by a maiden, a young lady dressed in the fine clothes of minor nobility.

“Who are you? Why are you attacking me?” asked Lukas.

The woman, whose skin was nearly as fair as the swans and her hair pale besides, scowled at him. The color was high in her cheeks. Her eyes were pale blue — the same color as the swan’s eyes, he noticed. Without speaking, she pointed angrily at him, at his sword, and then at the flock of swans. Lukas followed each point until he was staring at the swans, unable to make out which one had been his travel companion for the past several months. The swans had settled enough for Lukas to count them. There were six swans.

“What?” asked the knight.

The Pooka whuffed through its nostrils. “Perhaps she thought you were hunting the swan,” it said.

The maiden’s eyes grew wide and round at the Pooka, but still she said nothing. She nodded once.

Lessons Learned

These are things I already know, but, well, sometimes I forget:

  • I don’t slow down gradually. If I am busy, and have lots of things to do, I go go go until I crash. This usually involves hitting a mental wall and requires at least 13 hours of sleep to become functional again. The best thing to do when I reach this stage is to feed me and send me to bed.
  • I require regular doses of fiction. This is for the sake of my sanity. I realised yesterday morning that I had gone a month without reading a word of fiction. So great was my thirst that I read a third of EDGEWOOD and nearly half of Voices by Ursula K. Le Guin. It should come as no surprise that for three or four days I was finding it increasingly difficult to write my novel. My well of fiction was quite simply dried up. This, I hope, has begun to be remedied.

November has been and will continue to be quite busy. I had gone a week without an evening at home, so last night after work I canceled all of my plans and went straight home. I made a delicious meal of grilled pork, baked sweet potato, and steamed broccoli accompanied with a glass or two of rosé wine. I watched an episode of Frozen Planet and fifteen minutes to 8.00 PM I was in bed with a novel and asleep not more than half an hour later. This morning I have returned to a mostly normal-Chera state of being.

Also, tea – tea is surely the nectar of the gods.

Half-way!

Last night, after a rather long writing session in which I wrote 3000 words, I finished Chapter Five. I have now written half of my novel. Huzzah!

And may I present to you, the Pooka:

A black shadow leapt onto the bed. When Lukas did not first acknowledge it, the small creature pounced on his feet, its claws pricking him through the covers. “Agh!” exclaimed Lukas, jerking his feet away. The black cat chased after them, attacking his feet even as they moved.

The cat stopped only when Lukas threw a pillow at it. Leaping over the pillow, the cat sat down gracefully. It proceeded to wash its face, winking its golden eyes. “Well?” asked the Pooka.

“There is a monster in the forest,” said Lukas. “Time and again Lord Cadigar has sent knights out after it, but they have never returned. The game has left his parks. Save for me, there have been no other travellers. They do not know what kind of creature it is, but they fear it.”

 The cat began licking its shoulder. “It is as I suspected,” said the Pooka.

“I told them I would ride out to meet it.”

The Pooka did not answer. The cat lifted its leg, moving on from its stomach. “Pooka!” Lukas tossed another pillow at the indecent cat.

“I heard you,” sniffed the Pooka. It turned itself in circles on the pillow before lying down. “They asked you about the gryphon and the chimera. I know. I was there.”

I’m fairly certain that the Pooka is the reason I keep writing these novels…

Word count: 25355

Remembrance Sunday

Today we remember, lest we forget:

WWII veteran placing a wreath on the church’s war memorial during our act of remembrance.

They shall not grow old,
as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them,
nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun
and in the morning
We will remember them.

We will remember them.

Word count: 21,832

Favourite Things

The North Sea:

Other things that made me happy on this particular Friday was hot chocolate after work with a friend visiting from Edinburgh and hearing from Kelly that she will be visiting me next year for my birthday.