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

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.


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

Dancing dwarves

Cookies and milk and Princess Agnes for inspiration:

From Chapter Three:

            A dwarf pressed into his hand a sandwich of ham and cheese and another gave him a flagon of beer. He took both hastily and hungrily, and then he kept his own bargain. He played the traditional yuletide dancing songs first, following with a few he had made up of his own. The dwarves linked hands and danced, weaving in grand chains around in circles and looping under arched arms. Owls and robins swooped down onto branches around the dancing company. The owls bobbed their heads in rhythm.

            Lukas played himself breathless. After the dancing songs he played calmer ones as the dwarf children fell asleep in their places and the adults refreshed themselves with beer. The werelights dimmed with the first rays of sunlight. The dwarves packed up their children and their beer, leaving a basket of food for the mortal who had played for them. The grandfather dwarf brought his granddaughter over to thank the mortal knight one last time. “You are very welcome,” Lukas said to the dwarf girl with a smile.

            “The best dancing night we’ve had in years,” said the older dwarf. “I haven’t heard such music by a mortal since your grandfather’s day, or his father’s before that. Good luck, Prince Lukas.”

            The dwarf girl’s mother called and with the snap of their fingers the dwarves were gone.

Word Count: 14,015

Chapter Two

Today I finished Chapter Two and began Chapter Three of my NaNoWriMo novel.

I left Sir Lukas in pursuit of a chimera. In the snow. That will prove interesting tomorrow…

Word count: 10,363 words

NaNoWriMo Prep, 2

Do you have an outline for your novel?

Every one of the 170,000+ participants of NaNoWriMo has their own way of preparing for the crazy month of November. Regarding the actual novel, my checklist includes: 1) A story (which I discussed last week); 2) A title; 3) An outline.

Being that this year will be the fourth novel in a series, I’ve developed a sure-fire process for outlining this particular type of story. Firstly, I know that I will have 10 chapters. Why 10? Because then I have 10, 5,000-word length chapters. Also, because if one follows the daily word goal of writing 1,667 words/day, then that means each chapter takes three days to write. (I must admit that it was not I who came to this realisation on my own, but Kelly.) With this formula in mind, I make my outline.

One of the joys of NaNoWriMo is seat-of-your-pants writing, adventures in prose, and letting the writing run away with you. So it’s best not to have a too detailed outline, in my experience at least. The first thing I do to make an outline is to number a list from 1 to 10, for each of the chapters. Then I write in the main plot points for about where I think they need to take place in the overall novel: for instance, first chapter is always my ‘intro’ chapter, with the protagonist leaving home for one reason or another by the end of the chapter; the last chapter is the ‘resolution’ chapter, so I have to make sure that I’m able to wrap everything up by the second half of the tenth chapter. I usually have a number of small adventures with the large, overarching adventure for my protagonist beginning somewhere in the middle.

Right, so once the major plot points are mapped out, then I have to fill in the rest of the chapters. Here’s my trick to writing a chapter in three days: I plan to have three episodes for each chapter. That way when I sit down to write each day I will always have an idea of what I am going to write about that day — as well as resolving the previous episode and preparing for the next one. This works really well with my knights & quests/fairy tale stories, because that type of story-telling lends itself well to being episodic.

For example, the outline from The Faerie King looked a little like this:

1 – Intro; Andrew’s tale; Silas prepares to leave

2 – Black Knight; Green Knight; rescue a maiden (sort-of)

3 – Selkie; dragon (loses his horse); attacked by knights while sleeping (steals one of their horses)

4 – Giants (loses his horse; held captive); escape

…and so on. As you can see, it is still not a very detailed outline. Sometimes the episode takes up an entire day’s worth of writing, sometimes it spills over into one or more days (such as Silas’s encounter with the giants). The idea is just to get the creative juices flowing when I sit down to do my writing that day, thinking, ‘Right, I have to get Character from X to Z. How am I going to do that?’ I’ve found that this type of planning is detailed enough to ensure that I will have something to write about each day, while still being vague enough for crazy adventures.

What about you? Do you outline before NaNoWriMo? How are you preparing?

NB: I actually do quite a bit more than just novel-planning to prepare for NaNoWriMo. Check back tomorrow for my post on ‘Planning Life during the month of November’.