Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Happy Winter Solstice!

Gah, I'm tired this morning (I must be having NaNo flashbacks, as it's causing me to post on this blog), as I was up at 3 am (and dragging everyone else out of bed with me) to go outside to view the lunar eclipse. Well, it was a clear night, not even that cold, and it was a cool thing to look at. (Only marred by the neighbors having their outside lights on all night. Bah.) No, the moon didn't look as red as it did in some of the pictures we saw on the internet, but it did look more orange than usual. So there I was in the middle of the night trying to explain the geometry to my daughter. Hrm. I think I was awake, at least. Sometimes they ask me questions when I'm asleep and I answer them out of my dreams, and end up saying the gods only know what.

So yeah. It's been 20 days since my last post, and no, I haven't done any writing on my novel. Ask me again in January. I got sucked up into another time-consuming project which I'm not admitting to. But I should have the bulk of that done before the end of December. After that, yeah yeah yeah, I'm gonna finish the damned story. I'll even make it my New Year's resolution.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Baby rape, even better the second time around!

...so is that my most perverted-sounding subject line yet?

Sorry to disappoint anyone googling for evil activities involving mammalian infants, but I refer to the young tender version of the Chinese vegetable also known as "yu choi", "yu choy", or "you cai". (This is the same plant people use to get oil from, hence the name, but it's very tasty. I prefer it to most versions of broccoli, eastern or western.)

I had it for lunch yesterday. Mmmm.... On Friday night I had cooked it in a pan with oil, garlic, salt. Yesterday I combined it with the leftover pasta (rotelle in red sauce, in this case a jar of marinara from Trader Joe's, an onion, a couple of tomatoes, and frozen artichoke hearts (also thanks to TJ's!). Maybe it's just me, but I like artichoke hearts in my pasta) and some of what my family calls "the chicken sauce" (i.e. the Huy Fong brand of sriracha). One of my favorite foods in the world!

This has been another pointless post brought to you by the post-NaNo blahs. I've written more words in this post than I wrote in my novel all yesterday.

Monday, November 29, 2010

50039!

That's my official word count according to the NaNoWriMo web site. Well, it's over 50K, and that's good enough for now. It coincides with the end of the scene I was working on, so it's a convenient place to take a break.

Ha ha!

A winner is I! Let's see...that's...the sixth year now? Gah, what a thought. All right. I'm going to go eat lunch (I vowed not to eat lunch until I hit 50K today), then go on a wild shopping spree (I promised myself rewards) then waste some more time.

Yeah. I'll finish the novel in January, or at least that's my plan. Out of NaNo, I don't have the willpower to force myself to do 2000 words a day, but 1000 is easy enough. I do know more or less where the story goes (Lady Bloodless luvs Chola! She made him promise to run off with her back to hell if she helped him "rescue" Nyima! Lady Bloodless has to give up the body again when it turns out the manacles are keyed to her name, not Dawa's! Masidi powder usage causes lipodystrophy!) so I'd better get it all down before I forget and get distracted with a new story.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

48K, and the first kiss!

Unfortunately, it's to the wrong person. *headdesks* Taking a break, and then I'll get back to writing about how she runs away and jumps off a cliff when he pursues her.

Luckily, she's a demon and easily survives stupid stunts like that.

I'm slightly optimistic again. Last break I took, I thought about the storyline and got a bit more of the plot hashed out. It turns out Chola and Lady Bloodless are going to kidnap Nyima in order to save her from Prince Senge. First Nyima stops Chola from killing Senge. Maybe she'll do that cool sword-grabbing thing. (How can I write that? I get squeamish just thinking about the times I cut myself while chopping onions.) Anyway, after that we have the runaround, then they all get captured. Unbeknownst to the rest of us, Norbu and Dawa have their shocking reunion (dum dum DUM!). Meanwhile, Senge, Chola, and Nyima do their thing. After that, Chola and Nyima are on the run again. Oh yeah. Don't forget the Guru Achamo's staff in all this.

The end is in sight?

Well, not really. Yeah, I'm past 46K, but I just finished chapter 7 last night, and I'll be lucky to get to the end of chapter 8 by 50K. There's at least 30K more to go to finish the story (guess I'll be writing in January!) After I reach 50K, I think I'll redo my outline so it bears some resemblance to the actual novel. I need to figure out how to get to the ending so it ends where I need it to end. I have a problem, too, in that I've been alternating "THEN" and "NOW" chapters, and the "THEN" story is about over. (One more to go, maybe.) Am I going to end up adding gratuitous "THEN" chapters? Possibly some historical bit that is only related by theme to the main story. (Theme! Ha ha ha ha ha!)

Ok, I want to get it done...even if it is just escapist fluff that fails to capture the complexities of the real world. It's impossible for me to keep everything in my head. Anyway...I estimate I'll reach 50K tomorrow. I could do it today if I really tried, but I probably won't.

Friday, November 26, 2010

43K, and the origin of the DLF

That would be the "Demon Liberation Front", which may get a new, improved name in the second draft. Meanwhile, I'm at 43.5K and taking a break. I'm figuring on 2K a day for the next 3 days. All 3 of my kids are now asking me "Are you writing yet? Why aren't you working on your novel?" Yeah. I did tell them to "encourage" me. Ha ha ha ha!

I've downloaded a few more songs to add to my writing soundtrack. But I still hate the actual bit where you have to, you know, sit there and write (type) words in the actual story. (The songs are nice, but gibberish as far as I'm concerned. I have enough trouble trying to understand Cantonese, much less sung Cantonese. I rely on subtitles a lot for someone who's basically illiterate.) (It's supposed to inspire me to write my novel wuxia style...the best I've been able to manage is to think of some cliched Chinese dialogue now and then and kinda sorta translate it.) (Though if I "win" NaNo, I'm going to buy that "Dark Tales" DVD I've been watching on youtube.)

Here's another excerpt:

Dawa climbed out the other side and unloaded her folding stall from the back of the van, setting up her "AUTHENTIC BLESSING SPICE! VIRTUE GUARANTEED!" shop next to Yiping.

But even as they started chatting to their prospective customers, an outcry arose at the edge of the crowd. As quickly as they had gathered, they were gone.

"What? What's going on?" Yiping couldn't follow the hurried, excited yells of the villagers.

Dawa frowned. "A demon hunter, they said. Here?"

"Really? Let's go see!" Yiping slung his small camera around his neck, locked the van again and tugged at Dawa's hand. "What does a demon hunter look like?"

Dawa held back. "It depends. I wonder why they're here?" It must be a coincidence, she thought. No one had any reason to suspect her. Still, she was wary of attracting the attention of a demon hunter.

"Go and we'll find out," said Yiping.

Dawa sighed and nodded. She made sure to lag behind him as they made their way to the other end of the village, and this time found themselves at the back edge of the gawping crowd rather than front and center as the main attraction.

The demon hunter was a man. He rode in at a leisurely walk astride one of the rugged hill ponies. He was dressed in leather and furs, with a whip coiled at his side and a short sword in a scabbard hanging from the saddle. He wore a wide-brimmed straw hat which shaded his eyes but did not hide the oval tattoo on his face.

"What's that mark under his left eye?" whispered Yiping.

"They call it a 'Buddha's Tear.' It means he's a demon himself."

"Really!" Yiping studied the man with even more interest.

"Shhh," warned Dawa. She suppressed an impulse to duck down and hide behind Yiping.

She needn't have worried. The villagers around her were pointing and chattering with far less restraint than Yiping. Only when Yiping lifted his camera and took a picture did the demon hunter's head turn, sharply, at the sound of the click. Even so, after one assessing look, he paid them no further heed.

"Where is the one called 'Old Man Gyalt'?" asked the demon hunter, pitching his voice to be heard over the crowd.

Another wave of speculation rippled through the villagers.

"Old Man Gyalt?" "Did he send for a demon hunter?" "I didn't know he was demon plagued!"

"No, he's fine, I saw him just yesterday." "But his goat. Tell him about the goat." "Shut up, it's not for the likes of us to tell him anything." "Is there really a demon?"

But enough of them said, "Old Man Gyalt lives over there," and pointed the way for the demon hunter. He nodded and urged his pony towards the outskirts of the village, as directed, picking his way carefully through the horde of bystanders.

Gyalt's house was a run-down affair, a two story farm cottage much like the others in the valley. A white plaster wall surrounded his yard, which was just beginning to fill with rows of pea plants, radishes, and leafy cabbages. The demon hunter dismounted at the front gate, muttering a command to his pony.

"Is there really a demon here?" The foremost villager looked over the hunter's shoulder at the house.

"What else am I here for?" said the demon hunter irritably. Two wooden dogs, guardian figures, flanked the gate. The demon hunter scowled and pointed at them. "See? Iron nails through the eyes."

The villager's eyes went round. "You're right! Hey everybody, take a look at this! How come we never noticed before?"

Another one pointed a chin at the house, "But the prayer flags...wouldn't they cry out if there was a demon inside?"

"Stay back," the demon hunter grunted. He pushed through the front gate and stood on the raised dirt path that cut through the vegetable garden to the door of the house. He lifted his head to survey the lines of colorful squares strung up from the roof to a pole in the ground. Then, without apparent transition, he held a whip in his right hand. It uncurled with a crack, the end licking towards the flags and returning to the demon hunter with a pale orange cloth caught in its coil. He took the flag with his left hand and held it to his face, tasted it. "It's been brined."

"Brined!" Everyone knew what that meant, except for Yiping, who made it a question.

"Brined?"

"Soaked in salt water," Dawa explained in Chinese, keeping her voice down. The language already made them too conspicuous. "The salt breaks the binding on the spirits. Without a spirit in it, the flag won't give any warning even if a demon is near."

The demon hunter opened his hand, letting the cloth fall. He stared at the the house for a moment. There was no sound or motion inside. No smoke came out the chimney.

"Where /is/ his goat?" muttered one of the villagers in front of Dawa. "Has anyone seen the goat?"

The demon hunter cracked his whip once more, this time in empty air, then called out loudly, "Old Man Gyalt! It's no use hiding, Old Man Gyalt! If you have the guts, come out and face me!"

Nothing.

The demon hunter called a third time, "Old Man Gyalt!"

This time the front door creaked open. A stooped figure stood in the frame, hobbled out. As old as his name suggested, the man was stooped and withered, blinking in the sunlight with an arm over his face to shade his eyes. He hawked and spat on the dirt outside his door.

Then he said in a voice thin with age, "Here I am. What do you want?"

The demon hunter said coldly, "Steal a goat, steal a man. You know why I'm here."

The old man hobbled a few steps closer, then stopped. He straightened his back, dropped his arm to his side. "So. I thought I got them all, but one of the spirits escaped."

"Escaped, yes, and brought its message to the Muruk Gar Tower of Silence. I was sent for."

The old man pointed at the demon hunter. "You. I know that mark on your face."

"I tell you, I was sent. The mark is veiled. Don't bother trying to read it."

"I don't need to read it to know you've sold out your own kind."

"Enough!" The whip flew out again, this time coiling around the old man's torso, pinning his arms to his sides.

Old Man Gyalt, or the demon in his body, offered no resistance. He allowed himself to be jerked forward, falling to his knees in front of the demon hunter. He shook his head. "You know I'm right."

"I know you're a murderer." The demon hunter, still holding the whip in his right hand, used his left hand to draw his short sword from the sheath on his back. With one swift motion, he plunged the blade up into the old man's throat, all the way through the neck.

The old man twitched and gurgled, but the whip held him fast.

The demon hunter muttered an incantation under his breath.

"What's he doing?" whispered Yiping to Dawa, not taking his eyes from the scene he watched through the viewfinder of his camera. Click.

"It's a spell to extract the demon's name," said Dawa. "I hope the hunter doesn't mind you taking his picture."

"Why would he mind? This is all perfectly legal here, isn't it?"

"Yes, but you know that doesn't mean he wants pictures." She put a hand on Yiping's arm.

Reluctantly, he lowered the camera. "All right."

Minutes later: "He's dead?" "He's dead." Question and answer flew through the crowd. "Then why is he still standing there?"

The demon hunter was still standing there, as if in a stupor. Then he jerked his sword free, simultaneously loosening his whip and coiling it back into his hand. The corpse flopped to the ground. The demon hunter spoke aloud into the blank air, "Why didn't he fight? I thought he'd fight me for his life."

"Come on! Time to go," said Dawa. She tightened her grip on Yiping's arm and pulled him away with her, threading a way through the crowd. she broke into a jog, and didn't stop until they were back at their van. She rested there with her head on her arms.

"Dawa? What's wrong?" Yiping held her around the shoulders. "You're shaking."

"Sorry," said Dawa, her voice muffled through her arms. "It's just seeing that..."

"I know," said Yiping. "I didn't expect it to be like that. And it was strange. Neither of them looked like demons to me. They looked like humans."

At this, Dawa whirled, reversing their positions to grab Yiping by the wrists. "Of course they do. /I/ look human, don't I?"

"Yes, but..." Yiping looked at her blankly. "What are you saying?"

"My father was a demon. That was the scandal, not only that my mother had a lover. The Guru Achamo told me. /I'm/ illegal, here. And someday maybe some demon hunter will track me down and slaughter me in the middle of the street, with no judge, no trial."

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy (American) Thanksgiving!

Whee. At about 41000 words and I don't feel like writing (I know, when do I ever?) but looking at last year's blog, I only got to 40K on about Nov 27, which makes me feel (foolishly, I'm sure) that I have plenty of time left, why rush? Ha. Ok, ok, I'll go write something anyway. I know. Must keep going. The story's only about halfway, I think.

Starting chapter 7 today. Dawa and Yiping are driving around Shambhala in a breadloaf van ("mian bao che"). I dunno. It just seemed more likely than them having one of those big tricycles or an animal cart. Where do they get their fuel? Does Shambhala use vegetable oil in diesel engines? I just can't see big gas pipelines running into a supposedly secret mythical fantasy kingdom. So anyway. Moving on.

They're driving around Shambhala...the remoter villages...when...something...happens. Ugh. Obviously if I'm starting this chapter here, I must intend for something important to happen to them. Or they see something. Or they do something.

When in doubt, add a demon attack. Oh yeah. That was it! Random demon attack number...what are we on now, number three? (Not counting the one on the Guru Achamo.)

Ok. I'm going to spend Thanksgiving thinking about a demon attack. Go me.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Finally got to 40K...

You'd think I could come up with a better name for the demon advocacy group than the "Demon Liberation Front", but apparently I can't. So DLF it is for the first draft. I'm going to have to explain all that in the next chapter...not really looking forward to it, since the whole thing is a complete muddle in my mind.

And now in this chapter, I decided that Chola T'hom is looking for them. Now that he's sucked into the evil plot of evilness, I guess he needs whatever help he can find, and the DLF is his best bet right now. How he's going to find them, I don't know. Maybe he can go munch on some dead person. A victim of a DLF attack? That would do it. But how to get there without raising the alarm? Erm. Dunno. Thinking about it.

So yeah. I hope I can figure all this out sometime between now and my next writing session.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

3 pm, 36K, end of Chapter 5

There's probably something wrong with Chapter 5. It's the shortest one yet. I suspect I'm missing a scene. But I can't think of anything I want to put in there right now. I'll get back to it all in chapter 7. I think. Maybe my outline will help me.

*checks outline* HA HA HA HA HA! Whose idea of a joke was this outline? Um. So the novel isn't exactly following it.

I want to get to 40K before I go to sleep tonight. That means I need to go write chapter 6 real soon now. Gonna take a break first. I'm one of those people who visualizes their story as a movie in their head before writing it down. Well, maybe not a movie, but maybe an audio drama, or just running through the words mentally until it sounds (more or less) right.

Someday I will think of a better name for the town/city than "XXX".


"Kundun Goba!" An old woman's voice shouted a name that, in his dream, Chola mistook for his own. Then he woke up.

Two days after he had left XXX, Chola woke up in confusion, thinking that a spirit was gnawing at his ear again. Then he remembered that he was stretched out uncomfortably along the back seat of the Land Rover. The knocking and rattling came from the window, not his skull. He blinked up, seeing a head silhouetted against the brightness of the morning sky.

He sat up cautiously and rolled the window halfway down. "Excuse me?"

"It is you! Kundan! I knew you'd come back." The speaker pressed in closer, and Chola saw that it was a woman dressed in the thick layers of a typical mountain villager. The clothes were old, faded and frayed at the edges. The woman herself was perhaps not as old as he first took her for, though her face was clearly weathered by age. Not a demon, ghost, or a demon hunter, he determined after a moment's observation.

Chola opened the door gently, forcing the woman to back away. He stepped down and shut the door behind him. What was she doing here? He had parked a mile away outside the outskirts of the nearest village, and that after taking a less frequented road than the one he had used in going to XXX. "I'm sorry, but you must be mistaken."

"No mistake." The old woman grinned with unsuppressible glee. She looked up in his face, then looked away again, as if shy. "You don't look a day older. Not like me. All those years...but you found it after all, just like I knew you would."

"Found what?" Chola thought about jumping back in the Land Rover and driving away, but something nagged at the back of his mind.

"The Buddha's Ear, of course! I know I laughed at you for wasting your time for hunting the fungus of immortality, but I didn't really mean it. Kundan Goba, tell me you forgive me. Tell me you won't leave me behind again!" This time, when the old woman stole a glance at him, Chola saw tears in her eyes.

Kundan Goba?

Why, in his dream, had he thought that was his name?

Then he remembered.

Chola T'hom reached out with both hands, grasped the old woman by the arms. He said quietly, "Didn't they tell you? Kundan Goba was killed by a demon thirty years ago."

"No!" The old woman shook her head. A tremor ran through her body. "No. That's a lie."

"It's the truth," said Chola.

"No. No, don't say that. My love, you've come back to me. I...I understand if you don't want to stay. You're still young, you don't belong with an old woman like me." The old woman tried to shake free of Chola's grip, but he held onto her.

Was this madness his fault? Were human minds so fragile? He had to make her understand. He threaded truth into the weave of her memories, but her thoughts rejected his name, his voice, and heard only her husband. If I am your husband, he thought, then you have to hear my words. If she was deluded, then let her delusion force her to believe him. "Would your husband lie to you? Listen to me. Kundan Goba is dead. You won't meet him again in this life. You have to let him go."

The woman began to weep. She dropped her head and twisted away, shoulders shaking.

Chola put his arms around her and held her as best he could. "You mustn't blame him. He loved you very much. I know. And don't blame yourself."

"We have a daughter. You would be proud to see how she's grown."

"I know," whispered Chola. He stroked her hair as gently as he could. "Hush. I know."

The memories came back to him in a flash. Memories, and new understanding. The Guru Achamo must have been on her way between her mountain and her school when she encountered a wild demon newly arrived in the world. The villagers had been lucky to have her protection. He thought he had only taken one life. Now he realized that perhaps he had taken two.

"Mother!"

Startled, Chola and the old woman each turned at the voice.

A woman strode quickly towards them, coming down the village road. She shouted again as she came. She, like the old woman, was dressed like a villager, but her clothes were less worn and her coat flapped open in the wind as if she had run outside in too much of a hurry to fasten the buttons. "Mother! There you are!"

The old woman wiped at her eyes, then turned a smiling face at the younger woman. "Ah, daughter, you worry too much. Look who's come to see us! Greet your father, my dear."

If anything, the younger woman's forehead creased into even deeper worry lines. She nodded to Chola without really looking at him. "I'm sorry, sir, but these fits take her, and she wanders away before we can stop her. She doesn't mean to disturb anyone." She took the older woman by the hand. "Come on, mother. Let's get back home before you catch a chill."

"It's all right," muttered Chola. He patted the old woman on the shoulder. "Look, here's your daughter. She's right. You should be getting home."

"/Our/ daughter," insisted the old woman. She dug in her heels, refusing to be dragged away. "Daughter, you still haven't greeted your father!"

The younger woman darted an embarrassed glance at Chola. "Yes, yes. Ever since my father passed away, my mother sees his face in everyone." Then she blinked. "But...you /do/ look like...I mean...I'm sorry. It's just that you do look a little like my father. I mean no offense."

"None taken," said Chola. He wanted suddenly to hide his face from their scrutiny, but resisted the urge.

The younger woman dropped her gaze to the Land Rover behind him. She recognized Achamo's crest painted on the door. "Oh, is that a school car? I used to go to the Chancemet Friends School when I was a child. You're on school business? They don't usually pass through this village, we're pretty far out of the way."

"I was driving two guests of the Guru Achamo to the school," said Chola neutrally, as if that answered her question.

"Ah!" said the younger woman. She tried again to steer her mother back to the village.

"Then won't you come in with us? Have some tea, some breakfast? It would be our honor."

"No," said Chola softly. "I thank you for your hospitality, but I need to be on the road."

"Of course. Good bye! Thank you for humoring an old madwoman." The younger woman tugged more insistently at her mother's arm, and this time the old woman followed her.

"He's not coming? He's leaving again?" The old woman asked plaintively.

"No. No, mother. Now come on, let's go home."

Chola watched them leave. Only after they were long out of sight did he climb back into the Land Rover and drive away.

Friday, November 19, 2010

I hate precogs

I hate prophecies, too. Naturally that's why I always have them. Argh! Well, once one character had the ability, I had to give it to an opposing character to balance things out, right? Bah.

Incidentally, my names are getting worse. (Also the plot and the pace of writing, but never mind all that. I will get more words done tonight. Yes. Truly. I will listen to this album five more times and have no more clue of the lyrics than when I started. 'hong coi nan tian ning nan hai...mon tian mo dui wu blah blah blah I have no f***ing clue' and why can't I type as fast as he sings, anyway?)

And the demons...what is the point of having these demons pop in, threaten someone, then get defeated? It's not as if my characters are getting XP and leveling up from random encounters here, dammit. Also, can you spend a drama point to make the GM run a flashback scene in which you gain enough XP to be a higher level in your current scene? I don't think so! *kicks the novel*

(flashback excerpt for the win!)

"I will have your name if I have to read it from your stinking flesh!"

Nyima felt the demon's name being drawn away, ground between Chola's teeth. To destroy the name was to destroy the demon. The demon panicked. "Stop! If you kill me, you kill your sister!"

The demon took her name and knotted it into his own, gripped it with all his strength.

But Chola did not relent. Bit by bit, he pulled the demon's name free. Bit by bit, he devoured the name as he devoured the demon's flesh. Nyima felt his teeth as clearly as if it were her own life being inexorably chewed away. Together, they were helpless. Together, they were consumed by pain and fear.

"Stop! Have mercy, master," came the demon's agonized plea, indistinguishable from Nyima's agonized plea, so tightly were their names tangled.

Chola said nothing. Nyima saw him through the demon's mind, a ravening, implacable presence. As well ask mercy of a forest fire. A horror of their impending death filled her mind. The demon's horror, her horror, there was no difference. Their senses dimmed. Only their tormentor remained, and the only retreat was the infinite darkness.

"Mercy," croaked the demon, choking on his last breath. "I beg you."

"The Blind Frogmaker begs for mercy!" The new voice cut through the darkness like a bolt of lightning. "I never thought to meet such a day."

The Guru Achamo.

"...Heartless...Killer...Achamo," gasped the demon, gasped Nyima. The pressure on the demon's name slackened, just enough for him to draw a few desperate breaths.

"I'm retired now," said the Guru Achamo. "Why are you here, Frogmaker?"

"You...killed...my son," said the demon.

"Ah. I remember. The Gatherer of Leaves." The old woman sighed. "I did kill him. After he killed how many humans?"

"Nevertheless," grated the demon, "He was my son."

"And your vengeance has brought you to this."

"My death..." The demon struggled again to free himself, but Chola's teeth were still clenched around his name. "In the jaws...of the...Carrion Bear." The demon let out a strangled laugh. "How was I...to know? You have no...no right. How was I...to know?"

"Let her go," said the Guru Achamo. "Release her name from yours. Then leave here and never return."

Nyima felt the demon's shock. A tremor of hope ran through them both. "You...would let me...go?"

"Didn't I say I was retired?" The old woman's voice was serene. "T'hom. If he frees her, let him go. Do you hear me?"

Chola growled. The sound was a knife scraping along the demon's name, but he endured, understanding that it was the last blow struck before the peace. And the demon leaped at that chance of peace, of escape. Nyima felt the demon's name slide away from her.

The world went black.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Picking my way through a minefield of flashbacks...

Or at least that's what it feels like. There I am, going along, then BOOM! My characters are sent back in time again for yet another crucial memory. Ah well.

I'm at about 31K. Only got 1000 words done today. I can see I have to do another 10K weekend if I ever want to get to 50K. And I can see it will take more than 50K to finish the novel, too. I have to finish this one, though. I have an extra incentive in that I need these characters to appear in a future story, so I have to find out how it all turned out! (Yeah, I really wish I knew. My outline is full of lies. I knew when I wrote it that I'd need to fix it.)

Ok, things to remember for now:

  • The normal usage of the Blood Attunement Sutra is to attune yourself to a rock or some such, making it impossible for a demon to possess you. You're not supposed to attune yourself to someone else...but a demon is vulnerable because they lack grounding in this reality (lack 'earth essence'). This is the same weakness that makes it possible to summon them. It's a difficult defense developed by the Guru Achamo. Other demon hunters used other forms of defense, but Achamo says her way is the strongest.
  • There's a weak spirit bound in Achamo's staff. It witnessed her last moments. That's why Nyima tossed it into Snake's Cradle Gorge when she decided to cover up for Chola. Later when she gets it back, she will find it also knows the Blood Attunement Sutra. Nyima can't directly learn it, but she can figure out how to counter it. Remember the Prince used it on her as a means of tracing her.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

28K and the end of clarity...

A bit behind on writing in the last two days, but I did get some words done. Now I'm on the last part of my outline that actually makes sense. After this, it's all rather fuzzy and "I'll figure it out when I get around to writing it." Well, that time is rapidly approaching...

Um. So my next flashback chapter will have to explain and motivate all these characters so that they will be where I need them to be now and do what I need them to do for the scenes I had planned. Argh. Life has to get a lot more unfair for them. I was never much good at that. Anyway, I'll try to get back on schedule today with the writing 2000-3000 words every day.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Chapter 4! (in which I dream of teleportation)

Another excerpt, in celebration of my reaching 25000 words. While you might think I got my love of short-hop teleportation from "Sapphire and Steel" (they did it with such style), actually it does appear now and then in wuxia fantasies. (Remember that awful movie "(Tian Long Ba Bu) The Dragon Chronicles: The Maidens of Heavenly Mountains"? Yeah. Actually, it wasn't that bad. It had Brigitte Lin in it!) Oh yeah, and another thing Sapphire and Steel has in common with wuxia movies: insta-costume changes! Ha ha! I haven't had any of those in my novel yet, but who knows...someday...

Now:

Rosecrown Abbey:

Nyima couldn't move.

She couldn't move, and the air was running out. The ghost's recitation of her name held her in herself.

Stupid, thought Nyima dizzily. Stupid and pointless. Damn the old fool. When they had first met, the abbess had pitied her. When had pity turned into unreasoning fear? I should have tried to talk to her sooner.

The dizziness grew worse. Nyima slid helplessly down to the ground, back against the rock.

She couldn't see, she couldn't breathe, and she couldn't move. She felt the darkness closing in.

She tried to remember air, tried to imagine it into existence as she had once done to spin silk for Tenzin's family. She could remember the sweet feel of fresh air, could remember drawing it into her lungs, but she couldn't remember what gave it its life-sustaining properties. Her memory failed in capturing the essence of breath. She had taken it too much for granted ever to /know/ it.

She tried to remember herself, to preserve herself by remembering it perfectly in every detail.

But it only hampered her thoughts. To think human thoughts in a human mind, was to change the state of the instrument that did the thinking. If she succeeded, she would be frozen in a single moment forever.

No. She would rather let fate take its course. If there was no way out, then here she would stay, just like one of the rocks lying around her. Did the rocks complain? She, too, could lie here for a thousand years, ten thousand.

Then, from the bottom of her mind, dreamlike, a thought: /There is a way out./

She didn't believe the thought. How can I get out? I can't even move.

/You don't have to move./ It felt like a memory. She remembered...

/You are here, but you are also there./

Where? Where am I?

/Where you are, your name is. Where your name is, you are./

She struggled through the dizziness to make sense of the thought. My name. My name is here.

Where else? It's in the voice of that ghost. The ghost is inside the rock. How will that help me?

/But where did the ghost get your name?/

Then Nyima remembered. The abbess! The abbess had spoken her name. Held it in her mind.

/She is thinking of you even now./

Was she? Nyima could only feel her own desperate wish to be elsewhere. She struggled again to break free of the ghost's voice.

/Don't move. Concentrate,/ admonished the voice of her memory. /Concentrate. You are not this sack of meat rotting in the darkness. You are yourself. Your name contains you. Let go. Someone is thinking of you. You are that thought./

I am that thought. Nyima let go of consciousness. In a dream, she could shift from thought to thought without ever moving.

/Someone is thinking your name./

Nyima fell into her name. It felt like suddenly turning her head to find herself in a new house with no memory of how she arrived.

It was raining.

That was the first thing she noticed about her new house. She hadn't known it was raining, but now the steady beating of raindrops against the roof was unavoidable. Rain. Rain, and cold. Sweet air in her nostrils. Light.

She opened her eyes, though she found her eyelids strangely stiff. They cracked like a layer off a thousand layer pancake. She was in the abbess's room. She looked down at her hands, causing more skin to crumble and flake off. The left hand held a rosary. The abbess's rosary. She recognized the sleeve of the abbess's robe.

She was inside the abbess's robe.

No.

She was inside the abbess's skin.

Then where was the abbess herself?

The abbess was screaming. Inside her mind, Nyima heard her voice, crying for her lost reality. Two people in the same place could not coexist in any sane or stable way. One more push, and Nyima could send the abbess irrevocably over the edge. On the other hand, if she eased away, gently disentangled herself, the abbess might still recover. Nyima trembled with the strain of keeping them both balanced inside one skin.

Carefully...carefully...she forced herself to think through each tiny step before moving.

Her own finger lifted a fraction of an inch. The abbess's finger stayed behind. Another adjustment...another...

"Abbess!" The shout from the corridor outside the room jolted Nyima's meticulous focus.

Concentration lost, she froze. She didn't dare speak. She hoped the intruder would give up and go away.

"Abbess! It's me, Dolma. Please, I need to speak to you."

Dolma! What did the little novice want with the abbess? Nyima clutched herself tightly inside her limited space. A drop of sweat burned on her brow, and she suppressed the urge to wipe it away. She couldn't afford to move.

"It's about...about Sister Nyima. Please. I know you're in there. Abbess! Novice Dolma begs you!" The door rattled. "Abbess?"

Did you come to beg mercy for me? wondered Nyima, touched by her loyalty. But she won't, not now, there's no chance. Brave Dolma. Don't you know when you can't win?

25K happy dance!

Ok, so I didn't make it to 25K yesterday, but I did manage it today! That means I just have to do another 1000 words for my 10K weekend, and I'm at -3000 words from my personal goal (2000/day->28000 by today.) I got to the end of chapter 3 (finally) and started chapter 4. It's a bit annoying to write with the alternating flashbacks/now chapters, because if something unexpected happens in the flashback part, it may mess up what was planned for the present-day part. Still, it does let me go around through different characters and so on and pretend that it all makes sense. I don't get quite as blocked this way (though naturally I still don't feel like writing.)

So yeah. I'm gonna take a break, then write some more later.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

20K...5000 more to go today

Or at least that's my plan. Sadly, my novel has degenerated into a bunch of "As you know, Bob" passages where people explain their backgrounds to each other. ARGH! Another damn thing to fix later. Very annoying. Also, I simply don't know enough about the life of a shepherd (Tibetan or otherwise), so that whole section is never going to be convincing. I'm just going to make it as short as I can, and tell it as if it were a fairy tale.

That's chapter 3. I hope to finish it this morning and then move on to Chapter 4 by noon. I don't think chapter 3 goes as far as Tenzin's death. Probably just ends with the baby dying.

Then in chapter 4, Nyima (last seen trapped motionless in a cave-in), magically escapes. Gah! I hate this. Fantasy! People keep developing random new powers to save their butts. In this case, she was always supposed to have the teleport power (come on! One of the reasons I'm writing this is to indulge in my teleportation fetish!), but it's awfully conveeeeeenient here, isn't it? Ok, so she's not that great at it. In fact, she kills the Abbess when she teleports into her body. Nasty. Nyima's only friend in the Abbey witnesses it, then runs screaming her head off (not literally). Cue demon wangst! Anyway, that's my plan for today. We'll see how it goes. In the second half of chapter 4, Nyima and Chola T'hom meet again over a dead body. Those sure are piling up. I think Chola is eating the liver at the time. Livers are good. Mmmm.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Most pathetic excuses yet...

Uh... why am I so behind? Was I super-busy? Did I have the flu? What? No, not really.

It was my dog's birthday!

Then I had to unlock the hidden level in Gemcraft Chapter 0!

Then I had to dig some holes in the yard with my daughter!

Then I had to go buy my own personal leaf-blower! It has steel blades!

Then I had to think about what the deal is with Dawa Gephel and how she is connected to Nyima. It's because Dawa's mother was the last King's Demon-hunter before poor Lord Pema, and she was also the Guru Achamo's student, and Achamo was the King's Demon-hunter before Dawa's mother (Achamo retired when the old king died 50 years ago) and that makes Achamo Dawa's grandmother (sort of). Achamo also has to be the Gandalf and explain blah blah blah Dawa is a half-demon blah blah blah her mother is a murderer blah blah blah to her.

So yeah.

I came down with a case of the "Week Two Blahs" and basically, felt tired and didn't feel like writing. Guess it's gonna have to be a 10K weekend now. Oh well.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Week 2, 15K, let's get that to 25K, shall we?

Day 9, and damn, I'm so tired. I have to start doing my daily writing earlier. If I wait until after the kids go to sleep, it means I stay up too late, and as I have to get up at least 30 minutes EARLIER than they do, this isn't really working. Plus, I don't use an alarm clock, which means I tend not to sleep very solidly the hour before I do get up (unless I oversleep). (But I do like being awake before I HAVE to get up and lying there for awhile to gather my thoughts before rushing about doing morning stuff.) Gah. I suppose I should get a working alarm clock. I just hate being woken up by an alarm (though it's better than being woken up by a phone ring).

Still, I'm at 15K this morning, which isn't too bad.

Consider that the first year I did NaNo, I didn't even START until the 9th (because that was when I happened to find out about it) and I still made it to 50K without too much trouble. (When I say "without too much trouble", I mean, not any worse than any other year has been.) Of course, that means I'm not getting any faster at writing. Ha ha ha. I can only hope the quality is improving. Um. Yeah, right.

So today I hope to start....*dramatic drumbeat* Chapter 3! In which we jump back seven years again and figure out what happened with everyone back then. Too many things are fuzzy in my head. The Bastard isn't supposed to be some kind of slacker, damn it. Um. Yeah. Let's write.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Day 6: Stupid Demon King...you are NOT helping!

Bleargh. Still behind. At least I'm not more behind. Yet. Not in the "writing mood". Then again, I'm only in the "writing mood" maybe 1 in 100 days. That's why I love NaNoWriMo. Being "in the mood" has nothing to do with it. So yeah.

Today I find that it's the Demon King who tells my FMC all about the whole sorry reincarnated lovers/soulmates business. I mean, that's ever so romantic, right? You'd believe it if some demon started babbling about how you and so-and-so used to be such a famous couple in Hell... *headdesks* Ok, but they were famous, she did use her signature Special Attack, and he did want to piss her off, and...

I still have to think up a decent side-story for the MMC. One of those "Enemy Mine" plots or something. Or maybe a fairy tale. Fairy tales are my friends! Truly. (But not that one about the mouse, the bird, and the sausage. Or is my subconscious trying to tell me something?)

Friday, November 5, 2010

Mother issues? Why do you ask?

Day 5, and I'm already 1000 words behind on my personal word count goal (well, it's better than -2000, which is where I was yesterday). At least someone finally did something evil in my novel! Woo hoo!

Then (7 years ago)
Snowbell Valley (The southern ridge)

On the rocks on the opposite wall of the valley, another set of eyes watched the wedding festivities.

Prince Senge. Lurking discreetly a few lengths behind him, a handful of men in royal livery waited for their master. However many hours it took, they were accustomed to such duties.

Only after dusk had overtaken them did the Prince turn away from the cliff's edge. His eyes hid fury behind a rigidly calm face. "Damn her. Who does she think she is? What is she? A nobody born out of a nameless hell. Nothing at all."

His guards knew better than to react. One and all, they stood blankly to attention.

Senge surveyed them, laughed shortly. "Come on, then. Time to go home."

***

The royal palace in Kalapa:

Home held little welcome for the Prince.

Senge was soon summoned to his mother's chambers. He gathered his resolve and obeyed, knowing that he was likely in for another tongue-lashing. He had been due back at the palace days ago, and had missed any number of ceremonial duties, mostly concerned with appeasing the guardian spirits of the royal palace. Even though his years under Achamo's tutelege had left him with little awe of the spirits, the others at court were less sanguine at the prospect of causing offense to the unseen.

Her quarters were in the same wing as his own, and it was only a short walk along the verandas lining the buildings of the palace to reach the Queen. Senge left his guards outside her door and passed through the antechamber to the richly furnished inner room, where the Queen of Shambhala sat crosslegged on her bed. Gauzy drapes hung from the bedframe, hiding the Queen's features behind the rippling phoenix stitched onto the cloth.

"Senge greets his mother the queen," said the Prince.

"Back at last," snorted his mother. "What kept you?"

"I had...other business," said Senge.

"Ha! Pining after that little apprentice sister of yours again?" His mother sat up straighter. Senge could feel her eyes boring into his thoughts. He had long ago learned to shield his mind from her prying, but the very act of shielding betrayed him. "So! It's true, then. What is wrong with you, my son?"

Senge had no answer. What could he say to that? "Your son begs forgiveness for his error."

"Forgiveness? Is that the best you can do?" The curtains parted and the Queen lifted herself out of the bed. "Let me look at you. So. I spend a fortune and all my heart's blood convincing that old hag to teach you, because she's the best, because she's the most respected, retired or not..."

"Your son is grateful," said Senge, dropping his gaze to the carpet. A mistake. The carpet was woven with designs that compelled submission and truth. His tongue slipped and the words fell out, "But she is the past. The future, my future, is with Nyima..."

"That demonic whore!" *THWACK*! His mother slapped him brutally across the mouth. "Don't speak her name ever again in my presence. I sent you there to learn, not to play at love!"

Senge felt the blood drain from his face. He touched his lips, feeling the sting of her slap, his fingers trembling with fury. Closing his eyes, he said with forced calm, "Your son is no longer a child. Please trust that you have taught him to judge his own path."

"I see. You think you don't need me anymore, is that it?" The queen paced a slow circle around him. "Ungrateful brat! You think you'd be here today if it weren't for all I've done for you?"

"Yes, Mother. And a fine job you've done of pruning the tree." Senge paused to lend weight to his next words. "And what would the king my father think if he knew why his junior wives all fail to produce any healthy heirs?"

The queen stopped. Her voice came straight into his right ear. "What's this? Now you think you can threaten me?"

"I think you can't stop me," said Senge with deliberate rudeness. A thought glittered at the bottom of his mind. It was an old thought, but this time he let it rise to the surface rather than trying to bury it. Yes. Perhaps it was time. He opened his eyes and looked coldly at his mother. "So please. Just leave me alone."

"Alone! I should have left you alone when you were but a sickly infant and borne a more filial son. Tell the king! Then we'll both be shorter by a head. He has plenty of years in him yet to bring up a..." Her words faded in silence. She raised a bejewelled hand to touch her lips in question.

/Enough, Mother./ Senge needed no sound when he had already tuned himself to the beat of her blood. Without warning, he struck straight at her face with his right hand.

The queen's response was instant. She needed no forewarning to block him with the edge of her own arm.

Then Senge's left hand struck, and this time his mother was too slow, too weak, to deflect him. He jabbed once, twice, at the acupoints below her collarbone, left and right, drilling her with enough energy to paralyze her for twenty minutes or more. Plenty of time. With a twisted smile, the prince eased his mother into a sitting position on her bed.

/You see, Mother, I did learn from the old woman. But she is a short-sighted fool and afraid of true power. I am not. That, Mother, you taught me./ Senge drew from inside his robe a glass vial, no bigger than the palm of his hand, filled with a thick red liquid. With his other hand, he held a syringe. He began muttering, the sound swallowed by the silence, but the pattern of the rolling chant hung in the air between mother and son.

He filled the syringe. The queen's eyes pleaded with him, cursed him, but her body was helpless to move.

/Power,/ said Senge. /Isn't that what you schemed for me? But you were mistaken about who would be the puppet and who would pull the strings./

The needle plunged through layers of royal brocade, through skin, and into her side beneath her ribs. Fluid seeped in, diffused through her body.

/We are of one blood,/ said Senge, his eyes avid for the final consummation. He focused his thoughts on the incantation, threaded his thoughts through blood.

The queen began to tremble. Her inner energy flared in chaotic waves, resisted the taming influence of Senge's spell, burst through her sealed acupoints. The tremble became a violent shuddering. All her limbs spasmed uncontrollably, and her head tilted back, the cords of her neck drawn tight, and her mouth opened in a voiceless shriek.

/No!/ Senge struggled to maintain control, but the pattern of his incantation dissolved. The threads of his power tangled, broken and clotted. He groped for the remaining pieces, but the ends were beyond his reach.

The queen's head flopped forward, an abrupt and unnatural motion. Then, without lifting it, her head shook back and forth, faster and faster. Her hands rose, clawed off her golden hairpiece, scattered pins like darts.

Senge staggered back, blocking most of the pins, but one of them drew a line of blood under his left eye. Worse, he had lost his attunement with the blood he had injected. If she recovered... she would never forgive him. She, too, was preserved by her arts, and had time to bear another child.

All or nothing. It was too late to take back his gamble. Senge drew the dagger from his belt. In this frenzy, she had no defense. He calculated his aim with cold care. One strike, under the bone and into the heart. Decision made, he moved forward...

...to find his wrists seized by impossibly long strands of hair. More hair lashed out, curled around his neck. They were tightening, tightening, choking his cry of shock. Hair cut into his skin, denied him breath, denied him blood. Senge couldn't move. Every hair was thick with power. He couldn't break free. His own energy was fatally disrupted.

He was lost. His mother was going to kill him. Literally. He wanted to laugh, at how badly he had failed. He wanted to beg for mercy.

But he stared into eyes blind with madness, immune to any appeal.

Darkness blurred his vision. The world receded.

And then the doors opened. A confusion of feet and arms, shouts and flashing blades, prayer beads and ribbons, all burst into the queen's chamber in a cloud of incense.

Someone pulled the queen away from him, cut him free of the strangling hair.

Senge gasped for breath, massaged his wrists, ignoring the questions pelted at him by the guards. Then he remembered, and groped behind him. Lucky. He had fallen on the evidence of his misdeeds. He slipped the empty syringe and vial into his sleeve while waving a distracting hand towards the window. "A demon! We..." He coughed, gathering his wits. "We were attacked. In the queen's own chamber... how is my mother the queen?"

He straightened. One of his guards moved quickly to support him.

"She is taken by some fit. She does not hear us," said the guard.

Senge peered over towards the queen's bed, forcing his eyes to focus. Two more of the guards restrained his mother, while a gaggle of her attendents entreated her to peace. He couldn't see her face: her head was canted forward, rolling against her chest, while straggles of hair still writhed and lashed at the empty air. "She was possessed. I strove to expel the demon, but...its power was too great for me."

The queen howled a spine-shattering cry. It went on and on.

Unable to endure the wordless accusation, Senge struggled to his feet and with the help of his guard, hobbled towards the door. "Quick! Where is Lord Pema? Why isn't he here already?"

Lord Pema was the King's Demon-Hunter.

He was also incompetent, uneasy in his office, and addicted to /masidi/ powder. The queen knew of his addiction and helped him conceal it from the king. He owed them. He would not dare challenge Senge's version of events.

Lord Pema was on his way into the queen's wing of the palace when Senge met him. All due credit to the demon-hunter's young apprentice's long ears.

"Lord Pema!" shouted Senge. "You are late. The queen my mother is in dire need, and due to your negligence. A demon slipped through your net and attacked her."

Spirits wailed soft protests that only Senge, Pema, and the apprentice had any inkling of.

"I d-d-didn't know, your highness," stammered Lord Pema. He was a small man, as emaciated as any wandering monk, and cringed when the prince loomed over him. "The spirits beg a thousand pardons, but they...the demon must have slipped through. They promise it will not happen again."

"See that it doesn't!" snapped Senge.

They returned to the queen's chamber to find the royal physician there as well, sitting by the queen and frowning over her pulse.

"How is she?" asked Senge from the doorway.

Lord Pema hurried inside, lighting sticks of demon-repelling incense and mumbling prayers, while ordering his assistant to stick thin sheets of holy scriptures on all the windows.

The royal physician shook his head. He gave Senge a grave look. "I fear...I fear for her mind."

"And her recovery?"

The royal physician shook his head again, looking even graver. "I can promise nothing."

Senge bit back hysterical glee. /Good/, he didn't say. Feeling his legs weak and shaky in delayed reaction, he retreated to a chair from which he could maintain both distance and an appearance of concern. He /was/ concerned. Why hadn't it worked? He had tested the procedure on goats, pigs, and a handful of beggars until he had perfected it. Then he realized: none of them had any training in internal energy techniques, whereas his mother was an adept. Of course she had been able to resist, and the resulting conflict had burned out her mind.

Senge sighed inwardly. He would have to think about it. Find a way to overcome any resistance. Next time...

Next time he wouldn't fail.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Day 3...and still on chapter 1

About 4000 words in, and I'm still on chapter one. Which is a bit absurd, considering that I managed to fit entire short stories into 2500 words before (and one of them was EPIC, dammit! In my head, anyway.) So it seems like nothing's happening...and more nothing's happening... perhaps I did start at the wrong point after all. I don't care. It's NaNo. So since I have to get the second batch of kids ready for school in 10 minutes, I may as well post the next bit continuing on from my previous excerpt.

Hmm. Yeah. I can see I've been reading too much Stephen R. Donaldson again. The weird influence on my word choices comes and goes. Bah. Better to be consistent. Fix later.

Chapter 1, continued

"It's no bigger than my wine bowl!" Chola scowled down at the stairs. "Stupid ghosts! A book like that, the words must be too small to see. How can he even read it?"

"Not with a giant magnifying glass, if that's what you're thinking," said Senge.

"There's a machine," Nyima explained. "From Outside. A 'lightning brain'."

"Just so!" Chola slapped the railing in emphasis. "If he can't read it with his own brain, he can't read it at all. And if he can't read it, it's not a book."

"Yet the information exists in it. It is written. His illiteracy is irrelevant. That, my brother, is the law." Senge smiled. "But my opinion is also irrelevant. Take it up with the Guru if you wish to contest the point."

"It makes a mockery of all tradition."

"Say that to the Guru's face if you dare," said Senge.

"Your teacher, not mine!" Chola shook his head and turned to glare at the prince. "You're a student. /I/ am a prisoner. I owe her nothing."

"Chola, don't say that," whispered Nyima. "You know that's not true..."

Chola's eyes burned into Nyima, denying all appeal. "In your heart you know I'm right. How much can untested love be worth? You cheat yourself in this."

"Love is not a bag of wool," said Nyima. "We give it to each other freely."

"What? To that...that milkdrinking boy down there? That sheepheaded fool?" Chola growled in wordless outrage, turning his gaze back onto the figure scaling the
cliff. "He'll slip and fall to his death. What then?"

Nyima tried to speak, couldn't. Why did he have to ruin things for her?

Suddenly, Senge burst out laughing. "Give it up, Chola! Even if all the shepherds in the world dropped dead at our feet, she still wouldn't have a beast like you. Isn't that right, Nyima?"

Nyima flinched at the venom in his tone. She grasped at the fraying threads of her happiness. "Stop it. Both of you. Please."

"Maybe she won't have me, but at least I don't hide a knife in my smile." Chola turned to the stone table and slumped back onto his stool, reaching down for another jar of wine. Finding it empty, he flung it onto the rocks with a muttered curse. He heaved himself back onto his feet and stomped off along the path to the temple where their teacher, or jailor, waited. "This show isn't worth watching. See you two later."

A morose silence hung inside the pavilion while the wind hissed bleak nothings around them.

"Well," said Senge at last. "He does have a point. You're wasting yourself on that poor fool down there. And he seems an innocent. Does he know what he's in for, fastening his fate to a demon?"

Nyima flushed. Her hand rose to cover the red and black spiral design tattooed under her left eye. Buddha's Tear, the commoners called it. "I bear the mark. I'm no danger to anyone. I'm no different than any human."

"No? Then he's not the only innocent. But I trust you'll come to your senses someday. I've always been very fond of you, you know. My offer still stands."

"No. No, thank you. Your highness." Nyima's hand dropped to her side. Once, she remembered, the prince had been a frightened child. Now she was the one who found him unnerving. She sensed a coldness in him. In that, she /did/ agree with Chola's judgement. But that was unfair of her, so she added as gently as she could, "You have been a good brother to me. But not...I mean, not in the way of a man and a woman."

"What do you truly know of men and women?"

"I've watched them for a hundred years."

"Watching isn't the same as knowing." Senge smiled, but his eyes were cynical. "And you don't know what you want. Until then... I've no more interest in this show than Chola. Later, Nyima."

Alone now in the pavilion, Nyima let out a relieved sigh. Having had their say, Chola and Senge dared do no more to hinder her. The Guru's law wouldn't permit it, and the Guru held all their names in her hand. Soon now, Tenzin would reach the top. Then would come the third ordeal. A mere formality, and then she would be freed to go with him. Down the mountain and into the mortal world. Nyima smiled at the thought. Mortal life. It was what she had always wanted, and ever since she had first seen Tenzin riding down the valley road, driving his sheep to the market, she had recognized him as the key to that life.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The first 500 words or so...

Well, it's a start, isn't it? Yeah, I've fallen victim to N'ame A'postrophitis. Grrr. Stupid alphabet doesn't work the way I want it to. Just pretend it's Wade-Giles or something (even though it ain't.) Here it is:

Then (7 years ago)

Stone Monkey Mountain:

Two thousand haunted steps, some wide and shallow, others narrow and steep, but each inhabited by a hungry ghost, are carved into the western face of the peak. At the bottom, Monkey's Gate marks the entrance: three arches of weathered stone, with the words "Stone Monkey Mountain" written on the plaque over the central arch. A sculpted rhesus leers eternally down from the top of the third pillar. At the far end of the two thousand steps, a small round pavilion clings to a granite outcrop.

Inside the pavilion, Nyima Khandro leaned against the railing and squinted down at a distant figure trudging along the path towards the gate. Behind her, T'hom Chola and Prince Senge sat drinking grape wine and playing go.

One of them set down a stone with a decisive clack. "Is he there yet, this shepherd of yours?" Chola's words were precise, showing no hint that half a dozen empty jars lay scattered by his feet.

"Yes," said Nyima. Tenzin must have started before sunrise, she thought proudly. "He made it through the Forest of Uncountable Paths. That's the first ordeal."

"Not much of an ordeal, now that there's a line of telephone poles marking the easiest road," said Senge.

"And whose fault is that? Highness?" Chola's teeth ground shut on the honorific.

Senge laughed. "You can't blame my father for wanting to be able to contact me. How many other sons does he have?"

Chola grunted. "The boy still has to climb the stairs. Without the word of the Guru Achamo, the spirits won't let him pass."

"He's through the gate," reported Nyima. Laughter bubbled up within her. "He's up to the first landing."

"Impossible!"

Nyima heard stones clattering to the floor behind her.

"The game ---" began Senge reproachfully.

"It's yours," snarled Chola. He was a bear of a man, and when he hurtled himself at the railing, she feared briefly that he would plunge through it and over the cliff. But the wood held. His shadow loomed over Nyima, his aura fierce as a summer storm.

But on this day of all days, she would back away from no one. She pointed down with her chin. "See? There he is."

"Huh," snorted Chola. "I don't believe it! What's that he's holding? There's no talisman you could give him... the spirits wouldn't regard your word any more than they would mine."

"They'd regard the Mapbook of the Lawgiver of Ancient Shambhala," said Senge, who had not stirred from his stone stool.

"It's not a book," said Chola. The man on the stairs crept steadily upwards. Sunlight flashed from the disk hanging around his neck. "It looks like a mirror."

"It is a book," said Nyima. "The Mapbook of the Lawgiver."

"What? All seven volumes?" Disbelief dripped from every word. "A thousand pages per volume, at last count."

"It's a /CD-ROM/," said Nyima, pronouncing the foreign word carefully.

"It's the latest thing," said Senge, yawning pointedly. "As you would know if you ever set foot off this mountain. Available in temple shops all over the capital this year."

So much for the early start...

"Agh! Stop biting my skirt!"

"WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF!"

"name redacted is pulling my hair!"

"I need new pants!"

And, of course, me writing about five words per minute didn't help... I had to do last minute research, meaning Google and distraction. Bah! Ok. Goal for the day: 2000+ words. It would be nice if I could manage 5000 each day and finish in under 2 weeks. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

"I eat dead people!"

So I decided to delve more into the background of the main characters. The male love interest was still something of a mystery to me, so I thought about it for awhile, and, um, that's what he told me. His demon (nick)name was "the Carrion Bear". He was known for a method of divination called "reading the gnomon of the carnate". (Would it look more impressive if I used more caps? Reading the Gnomon of the Carnate!) So while he does do the warrior demon thing, he gets his edge from knowing more than others. He can eat a corpse and mystically read past/present/future and pick out a path for himself and for his lover, the Taker of Eyes.

Oh yeah. It seems I have a case of "reincarnated lovers" on my hands. It's sad because she used to trust him completely, but now they hardly remember each other. I think he followed her when she was summoned by the Shambhalans. He cast himself into the wind that blows across the void, losing most of his remaining memories in the process. It took him years, decades, to reach Shambhala. And now he is not a student, but a prisoner of the teacher (whose name I forget or didn't decide on yet.) He's an illegal demon, so the sentence is for life (unless he chooses exile).

There we go. That's my story note for the day. Why am I writing this thing again? I suppose because I feel like it! I haven't read this story yet. Why shouldn't it exist? Hmm? And if I like it, maybe someone else will like it, too, someday. Or not. Anyway, I had a dream. Most of my stories have one or two bits that were inspired by a dream.

Monday, October 25, 2010

No more stuff until I hit 50K!

Heh, can't let my shopping sprees get out of hand. I can already see I'll be distracted with the books and DVDs I've already ordered. No more!

No books, no DVDs, no VCDs, no downloads (except what I already have a subscription for), no more than one youtube video per day, no CDs, no e-books, no comics, no manga, no "borrowing" from the rest of the family...

Not until I have 50000 words of my NaNo story typed in.

I'm declaring it here so I can't lie to myself and pretend I didn't really mean it. Hrmph!

Name the characters, round 2...

...with one week to go before NaNoWriMo starts. Hmm. Let's see, my 6 year old likes to give everyone names. This morning she says I should be "Mrs. Pompygan". All right. Maybe not for this story. I'll put it in my name file. Too bad the name file isn't much use to me as I've already used up the best names in previous stories. It's time for me to add to the list. Wait, isn't that what I've just been saying?

So yeah. Didn't I once use the rat-across-the-keyboard method for naming demons? That's why I called my random name generator "ratnamer", yes? Hey, I still have it on my computer. Let's see...

"Gweczambleblicztagl Wrautchczrterer"? "Eklionaiffish"? "Iohr Letfithschaipluis"!?

What the hell was I thinking? That was the worst random name generator ever (even given that I have the parameters set for long unpronounceables.)

Well, I did come up with a couple of demon nicknames over the weekend. It's a pity they aren't more inspiring, but these are the ones that stuck.

Taker of Eyes: so-called because she was once famous for her mastery of the Eyetaking Stance. What we need to remember is that demons are nearly immortal (meaning they can heal from just about everything), don't react to pain in the same way as humans, and can function even with massive blood loss. This makes the eyes a good target because even if you can heal them eventually, what matters is that you can be blinded right now. Another popular strategy is limb removal. I don't care if you can grow it back: you're going to have a hard time fighting with no arms or legs (the Monty Python Holy Grail sketch comes to mind). Ditto decapitation. Merely breaking a bone (or the neck or spine) doesn't work as well, because a demon can still get around that quickly. It's demon magic!

Fearless of Envy: this is our mini-baddie, the demon king-in-exile. He's there for the first big fight scene with the nuns. Poor fellow. He's there to show how bad demons can be, tell us about the Woman's demonic past, show how demons are seen in Shambhala, and demonstrate the rules governing the powers and limitations of magic in this fantasy world. And then he dies (after breaking the woman's leg/removing it?). His carcass stays around long enough to get a reunion between the Woman and the Prince. Why is the demon king called "Fearless of Envy"? Uh...um...because! Because I felt like it!

So there we are. I'll try to figure out more of my outline before next Monday.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Marital expectations...

Story note of the day: Why the woman's first marriage was a failure...

So it's like this: when the Shepherd married her, he thought he'd be getting a fairy wife just like in the stories. She was supposed to use her magic powers to make him rich. The first morning after the wedding, he snuck outside to count his sheep...and was disappointed to find the same number he had before. Gold, jewels, and jade were not served up along with his breakfast. He kept quiet at first, but then his parents began nagging him about it (that was how he convinced them to let him marry a demon, remember? He made all kinds of extravagant promises.) So first he drops some hints, then he just tells her outright...

Meanwhile, the spirits are laughing at them. She can see them but he can't. Well, she went into this marriage because she wanted to be human, didn't she? And human wives try to please their husbands, don't they? So silk is what she knows (from the years being bound at the silk factory), and silk is what she spins from her fingertips (literally?). (She also knows about being a demonic warrior, but she doesn't want to do that for profit.) It's something, but not as much as the Shepherd had hoped for...

Peace for awhile. It's only when they have a child that things really go hideously wrong.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

My outline disintegrated...

Bah. I keep thinking of stuff that happened to this that or the other person, but it doesn't fit into the beautiful Plan that I once had for this novel. Oh well. When NaNo rolls around, I'll just be writing whatever scene comes to mind. I can worry about piecing it all together later. Meanwhile, I should be writing all the ideas down, but I'm not. I have this delusion that I can keep it all straight in my head for the next couple of months. Well, it may be possible. I'm not GMing any games any more, so there's that mental space freed up for novel-ing.

Thought of the day: the Bastard wasn't possessed after all. It's the king-his-father who is, but he doesn't know. And then there's his half-sister, the revolutionary/political prisoner. The Bastard suspects that she was responsible for the terrorist attacks, but he doesn't want to know. He doesn't even want to kill her (and can't bring himself to do it personally), but he believes her death is necessary to progress into the modern, demon-free New Shambhala. It's a symbolic thing. He, like all the Shambhalans, must reject the demonic!

Meanwhile, remember that we have demon-hunters, monks (roughly divided into mountain, village, city, and road sects), and spiritualists. And the problem with demons isn't that they can do bad things to people (anyone can do that. Even I could in theory go out and buy a gun and shoot someone) but that they probably WANT to do bad things to people. And they're good at it. And they're just not human. But the distinction blurs between demons and spirits... out in the countryside, people do have their hungry ghosts that they secretly feed babies to. Some of the older ones are worse than the demons. (Ghosts who are independent of the organizations in the outer world!)

Monday, October 18, 2010

What do demons do all day?

At least, why do the Shambhalans enslave them?

Ok, it's like this. They still have remnants of their old magic tech from the bad old days. In this case, mandalas!

They can use a mandala to drill a hole into Infinite Time and bind it into common time. Remember from the other series that Infinite Time is bad news for mortal life (those two prophets ran around trying to plug up leaks: that was their whole raison d'etre), so we need to have a demon sitting inside each mandala converting the power into usable form (heat, electricity, etc.) It's Eeeeevil energy, but mostly clean. Let's not talk about the long term effects right now. Eventually, the demon sucks up enough thought/biodata/whatever from the mortals around it that it can incarnate properly if released. After 100 years, the law says that the demon is to be freed. About one percent choose to stay on Earth (and get marked and "adopted" by a sorcerer/priest type). The rest are banished back to whatever hell they were summoned from.

So while enslaved, the life of a demon is pretty boring. Not much of a life at all. Once freed, they can eventually get a human style life for themselves, though they do face some prejudice. Would you let a demon (however tame) marry your son or daughter? Especially as human/demon hybrid babies are unlikely to survive without illegal interventions (like feeding it a mortal baby to give it a stable body-print). My main character got as far as the "giving birth to a hybrid baby" part, but she couldn't bring herself to murder an innocent. So yeah. That's why she's not the happiest person in the world (and the marriage didn't last.)

Short version: "Kill, kill, hate, hate! Maim, murder, mutilate!" (What a demon thinks while trapped inside a mandala.)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Another day, another story note...

Yeah, it's October, which means that after a month or two of messing about with other story ideas (which I dropped after not being able to come up with good endings for them), I'm back to the main NaNoWriMo novel. For once, I already know which (out of the half dozen stories that are always lurking about in the back of my mind) I want to work on at the moment. Yes, it's that stupid romance and action in Shambhala thing.

This year, my goal is to 1) finish the novel, however many words it takes and 2) write a novel that I myself want to read. Some of my short stories I've kinda liked (maybe not brilliant, but at least I thought they were ok!) but the novels...eurgh...

So today, I'm thinking about where the "demons" came from... I realize that yes, they are actually demons (in the sense that I use the word in the world this novel is set in), but they're "lost" demons from desolate hells. That is, they come from planes that have been utterly drained of life. Wracked by war and abandoned even by the Dark Queen of the Abyss (or whatever I'm calling her these days), they are broken places scoured by the mind-destroying wind that blows through the Void. The "Dry Kingdom" where the Salt Gang are headed to now is one such place. A few of the planes bordering Shambhala are also, as a result of the wars from the time of the Golem Empire (yeah, remember that other story? The one you decided was also set in Shambhala, but back when the rulers were basically gods?)

So the lost demons have lost their bodies and most of their minds. They're worse off than the goblins. They wander into the world of the living and latch onto the first embodied, sapient mind they find. So the Bear killed someone, and she can't forget that... he is living a stolen life. She, on the other hand, was summoned into Shambhala and gained her incarnation more slowly (over a century!). Note also the "latching onto the first sapient mind" thing: they instinctively seek out "complexity", so people who work out in the borders try to keep their thoughts calm and wordless if they can. The monks/nuns who defend Shambhala against the demons do that "Empty Mind" thing. In the chapter with the demon attack, note that the younger novices have trouble with this...that's why they were targeted.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Prince's Mother has Evil Hair!

Just a note to myself: the queen was a princess from a sub-kingdom where they had a tradition of magic hair/beards/eyebrows/nose hair/whatever. When the prince was moping after the Woman ran off to marry the human shepherd, the queen berated her son for wasting his time. She spent all that effort to get him a good education, not to play at love. This was the last straw for him: he said he'd show her what he'd learned! He's improved on the Blood Attunement Sutra... except it doesn't work as well as he'd like. When he tries it on his mother, she fights back (the magic hair is loosed!) and it ends badly. Her mind is destroyed.

This is when the Revolutionary sees that she can return. Way back when, her mother had fought the Queen and escaped with one of her (magic!) hairs. Put a spell on it and put it in a cylinder of (something), trying to burn. It glows red hot for years but never burns, even after the Revolutionary's mother dies. But now that the Queen has lost her power, the cylinder has only ash in it. So it's time to plan a trip back to the homeland...

A bit after this is also when the King makes noises about abdicating again (what with his wife in the state she's in and all). The Prince mutters darkly (but needs to refine his powers before he tries to take over.) The King just likes to talk about it, though. He wouldn't really quit.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I suck at the food pr0n too...

Sometimes I wish I could write the yummy delicious food porn, but then realize that I made my characters vampires, or vegetarians (so much for writing about the scorpions-on-a-stick or adventures in eel-cooking). Gah. But then I realize it would all just come out like this:

Last night's dinner: Some random fish thing

Ingredients:

  • fresh trout fillet (one per person)
  • cooking oil
  • olive oil, lemon juice, soy sauce, ginger, red and black pepper (mix and marinade the fish in it for a few minutes)
  • a bunch of fresh spinach (wash and trim this first)
  • cooking oil, salt, garlic (chop into chunks and put in the oil)
  • bread or rice or something

Heat oil in pan. Add the trout fillets and pour "marinade" over it. Cook on medium heat for 6-7 minutes on each side. Add a bit of water as needed. Heat oil in other pan. Add the spinach. Cook on high heat for about 5 minutes (stirring frequently) until done. Serve with the bread or rice or whatever. Await appreciative reaction.

"Fish! Again!? Ewwww!"

"I hate this supper!"

"Remmie! OFF! No stealing food!"

"Can I have macaroni and cheese?"

* headdesks *

Um. Yeah. Maybe I'll try writing my paranormal erotica/romance again. (But not the one with the sweet cuddly tentacle rape. The whole "Sex with everyone in a 10' radius" area attack is just...words fail me.) So I have this angel/demon thing I wanted to do, but then I keep getting distracted with random thoughts, like, "Ok, so the angels are all naked except for their robes of Light. So what does that look like exactly!?" and "Just how perverted am I for thinking Brigitte Lin is soooo hot in that scene where she's being tortured in that movie that I've watched too many times and how can I rip off that scene so it works in my story?" Well, it's something to do before NaNo. (I'm going to try to write the Shambhala romance during NaNo...which is just over a month away!)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Distraction, thy name is Crawl!

Which is to say, Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup, a free open-source roguelike. Agh! The free games are the most addictive, and this is a really nice roguelike. Nothing like running around beating ASCII characters into submission (or dying a sudden horrible death as you are surrounded by a herd of killer Y's. Curse those yaks!) Ah yes, youngsters today are coddled, with their fancy graphics and saved games and lack of permadeath... *shakes cane*

Actually, I'm not that hardcore. I use the tiled version, which has little icons to represent the various monsters, items, dungeon features, etc. And the mouse controls are handy, especially as it lets you navigate by clicking on a mini-map that shows the explored part of your current level. Plus I cheat and disable the "player ghosts", so I don't keep getting killed by the ghosts of my previous characters, who always seem so much more effective against ME than they ever were when alive and I was playing them! Confused and poisoned and poisoned again and dead within a few rounds every time... Damn that teleport delay. (This game doesn't teleport you instantly after reading a teleportation scroll, but waits a few rounds, which is often enough to kill you.)

Anyway, I have yet to win (or "Ascend", as they call it). Or even make it into the deeper levels of the dungeon. I had a hard time keeping my spell casters alive, so now I'm trying a Troll Monk (basically, relying on unarmed combat and throwing stuff, as trolls suck slightly less at that than they do at everything else) of Kiku (which is a necromancer's god, so all the necromantic spellbooks he keeps giving me are so much toilet paper, but I like the pizza (troll style --- fresh corpses!) delivery service and protection from torment). This makes a refreshing change from D & D, where we're told players can't play trolls as level 1 starting characters blah blah blah level adjustment blah blah blah racial hit dice blah blah blah unbalanced blah blah blah...

So let's hope I get bored with this game quickly, or I'll never get any writing done again...

Sunday, August 8, 2010

It's too easy to buy books nowadays!

Arrrgh!!! Long ago in the dark ages, I used to carry around pieces of paper with my list of books I wanted to find, and once in awhile in a used book store, I'd stumble across one or two and be all happy and excited. Now I get obsessed about some subject or other (telling myself it's RESEARCH for my work-in-progress, RESEARCH, damn it!) and spend a morning and way too much money on amazon.com and everything (mostly) gets delivered to my doorstep in the next week or so.

ARRRGH! Do I have enough book shelf space for these books? No. Am I going to have enough time/energy to READ all these books? No. Will I ever manage to resell these books? No. (I can't stand to part with books. I might want to read them! Someday!) Did I ever finish reading all the books from my previous obsession/book-buying binge? Hell no! All I've accomplished is to make my kids sad when all these packages start arriving for me and not for them...

But I do look at the pretty pictures and maps. I love pictures and maps. Hrmph.

Ok. That's it. No more ordering anything online until October.

*mumbles guiltily and swears to read something from the previous set*

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Another day, another peach crisp!

Ha ha! The box is empty. Finally. Well, it was peach (and blackberry) season in Maryland again, and we could hardly miss out on that, could we? So last weekend I took the kids to our favorite pick-your-own farm. It's weird how the boxes seem so small while we're at the farm, but once we get home they suddenly seem to grow bigger...

Argh! So once the peaches start getting moldy and mushy, I have to do something with them. It's a good thing "crisps" are easy to make and eat. (Gone within hours, usually.) I'm sure the same will happen when apple season rolls around, though the apples do tend to keep better. (But I think we end up picking more of them!)

Mmm... peaches.... so yeah. I'm just killing time until it's done cooking.

Friday, August 6, 2010

The subconscious has spoken. Shambhala it is!

Or at least, snippets of the story keep writing themselves in my head while I walk the dog every morning. More of the background is coming to me, and reasons why X did Y. So yeah. I'll try to finish this one between now and November so I can start something fresh when NaNo rolls around again.

Cliche of the day: the misunderstood dying confession. "I should never...never have taught him..." (dies) Name names, people! Is that too hard for you? *facepalms* Of course, as I don't know what their damn names are, either, it's hardly fair of me to blame the characters! (Once I know their names, I think I'll start on my first draft.

Not just the names of the characters, come to that. I need names for their Super Secret Elite Powers. So far, all I have is the "Blood Tuning Sutra", which is some kind of psychic tick magic. And I know the Shambhalan adepts use mandalas to trap alien spirits into human time to use as energy sources. (The evil bastard half-brother of the prince is trying to get more dams and windmills built, and he'd like a nuclear plant but that's difficult without kidnapping a bunch of foreign engineers...)

P.S. No, coal is not really an option because they exhausted their coal deposits hundreds of years ago, during their "Golem Empire" phase. Remember what I said about golems being energy-hogs back in story 4? Hmm? Hmm? (Though they wouldn't be called "golem" there. Obviously a translation convention.) Same with natural gas. The Shambhalans don't want to rely on imports from the rest of the human world.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Onward to Shambhala!

Mwah ha ha ha! More mythical lands to ravage! Last time, it was Kukayne (aka Cockaigne), which I had set under the rule of Mother Goose and her order of weregoose nuns, which got invaded by the goblins. This time it will be the fabled Buddhist "Pure Land" I'm gonna mess with (along with Shangri-La, while I'm at it.)

Actually, this is a side-step from the main "Salt Gang Chronicles" sequence. I had two new characters which I planned to introduce in story 7 or 8 (I know, I know, I haven't even written number 6 yet!), but had no clue about their backgrounds. Then it came to me they they were a romantically bonded couple, and that they came out of this romance plot (hey, I've always wanted to write a romance), and the details slowly solidified. By which I mean, a bunch of cliches accrued in the rough outline I'm scribbling in my notebook. The love triangle! The evil-but-handsome prince! The good-hearted monster framed for murder! Revenge! Misunderstandings! The bastard half-brother of the prince who turns out to be just as evil! The political prisoner/revolutionary! But I didn't know where exactly it was set, except that it should be a kingdom connected to, but hidden from, the ordinary world.

And then it came to me that it was obviously Shambhala! I can set it without much trouble in the geographical region I want (roughly speaking, in the mountains between China and India, well, probably in the western Kunlun range on the edge of Tibet). I still have to come up with names for the characters. Looks like I'm gonna end up mutilating bits of traditional Sanskrit and Tibetan words/names. Ah ha ha ha ha! (It's either that, or continue referring to people as V, W, X, Y, Z, etc. as I do in my preliminary notes.) And of course my Shambhala will not exactly be such a holy place... the inhabitants will be more highly magical than those of the outside world, and in the past they did come out and meddle with Tibetan (and others in the area) politics/religion, but the Shambhalans are as corrupt as anyone... And it looks like Time is going to be an element here again. Cycles! Periodic blah! Mandalas!

Looking into it...there's tons of interesting small kingdoms that existed all over Asia that I never learned about in school. It's a pity! The world is so big, and history so long, compared to the size of textbooks and school hours. I come across them here and there and wish I knew more. (For example, I never heard of the kingdom of Dali until I started reading Jin Yong's books. Now I want to visit it...must have some cool historical sites there!) So yeah. I'm gonna make up my own version of a small secluded magical kingdom. The problem now is that it feels like it'll take at least a whole novel to do this...hrm...yeah. I dunno. Start it now? Or use this as my NaNo writing project and write the next two Salt Gang stories first? I've been doing them in order so far. I suppose I shouldn't let myself get distracted. But I do want to write this one sometime!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Finally done with my Salt Gang story #5...

"The Empress of Bells". Whew, that seemed to take forever. And things didn't quite go as I outlined. I don't know if I like the story, but at least I've done the first draft and now I know what happened. Two of the recurring characters got killed, but not the two I had originally planned! Bah! Also wrecked another kingdom/plane of Hell, ha ha ha. So much for wuxia, eh? I get carried away with the demons/angels/magic/fairies/blah blah blah.

I have some ideas for the next two stories (and that will be the end of the "season"), but I think I'll take a break for awhile. Wait until after I go to the beach to even try starting the next one. :-) And hopefully the air conditioning in my house will be fixed by then. It's pretty hideous here in the 100 degree weather with no AC. But the last couple of days were nice, so I felt cool enough to turn on the computer during the day and type. (About 4500 words today. I was really really really sick of my story.)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang...whew, that's over...or is it!?

Yes, well, I'm such a sad Doctor Who fan that the wait for the season finale rendered me pretty much unable to concentrate on anything else for a week! And now that I've watched it...

What a cheap trick! Damn cop out! The Doctor was in the unescapable box for what, ten minutes? (While we had the "previously" recap and Rory's scene). "And then a miracle occurs" indeed. Grrrrr! If you're going to let that kind of time loop (the sort that in the New Adventures they claimed was caused by Time herself) in the show, there's no dramatic tension left. If the Doctor is already out, of course he can easily get himself out. (Like me muttering to myself, "If I had my glasses on, I would be able to see to find my glasses.") Even worse, they didn't really explain anything. River Song, the mysterious voice, why the TARDIS was exploding, why it would cause the universe to end, we didn't find any of that out. I don't really like multi-season plot arcs. One of the things I always liked about Doctor Who was the self-contained nature of the stories.

Ok, that said, I loved the rest of the episode, so I'm willing to forgive the cop out, but I'm rewriting it slightly in my head to something I like better. My personal version of the story:

The Doctor does NOT get out of the Pandorica. He's stuck in it for about 2000 years, until the universe ceases to exist around him. Only the Pandorica is left. Then that goes, too, and the Doctor is finally released. By then, it's too late to save the universe. Half mad, the Doctor thinks "to hell with the Laws of Time, there's no time left to bother with any laws" and crosses his own timeline. He gives the time vortex manipulator one final push and sends himself sideways (to "when" the Earth still existed) and back to 102 AD, and releases himself from the box. However, this destabilizes his personal timeline, so this "2000+ years Future Doctor" vanishes at some point. "Now Doctor" finds Rory and Amy, does the same thing with putting Amy in the box, jumps forward in time and does much of what he does in the televised episode. When "2000+ years Future Doctor" vanishes, he realizes he needs to go back and release himself. Fez-and-mop Doctor version 1 appears to Rory. This is what we see in the opening and where (in my deluded vision) the episode "The Big Bang" picks up from. "2000+ years Future Doctor" never appears now. However, this way, it makes me feel better that the trap really did do something to him and he didn't need a miracle to escape!

Ok, there, I've typed that out so I can stop thinking about it! Time to get back to the story I was supposed to be writing. At least I managed to hack out an outline for the second half, so I should be able to finish it in the next couple of days. *suppresses hysterical laughter*.

[Edited to add: "So what about all the other times we had loops like this? "Blink"? "The Lodger"? Multi-Doctor stories? My theory is that the Time Lords do have the power to insert loops into the universe, but this type of loop is more damaging (because you have to poke holes into the continuum) than the simple repeating timeloops which they use more frequently. They only use it in emergencies (or if some Time Lord goes mad). The Doctor can do the same thing, with the help of his TARDIS (or vice versa), but he tries to keep his interventions minimal. The 7th Doctor probably went too far with it (in the novels), and the 11th is showing signs of falling down the same slippery slope. The intervention in this case was far from minimal, plus there aren't any Time Lords around (unless they turn out to be behind it all next season!) and the TARDIS was exploding, plus the Doctor wouldn't score any drama points for using such a cheap trick to resolve a major cliffhanger, so that's why I insist he got out some other way...]

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Argh! It's June already!

So it's paper fan season again. No, wait, it's time to plant the pumpkin seeds. Maybe. No, it's tick and Lyme disease season. No, it's time for the first round of beans from our cute little plants. No, it's school concerts and shows season. No, it's the girls' birthdays... ARRGH! Whatever. It clearly isn't novel or story writing season for me.

And the stupid deer came into our backyard and ate my tomato plants. Stupid deer! They don't even taste any good! I had hoped the stinky clumps of garlic chives (those things really are weed-like once they're established) would keep the deer away, but no. It's not even as if the tomato plants taste any good. Grrr. So I ended up attempting to transplant some of the volunteers from the happy happy cherry tomato plant I had last year. However, I suck at gardening, so they will probably all die. I suck so much that the tomato plants I started from seed inside were tiny feeble things compared to the ones randomly growing outside. Bah! I didn't even think they'd grow like that outside in our climate. We'll see what happens...

I hate ticks. Did I mention? I've always hated ticks. Big ticks, little ticks, all evil evil evil. I'd try that repellent stuff the vet gives me, but unlike my dog, I do bathe more than once a month. Darn.

On the plus side, the school concerts were surprisingly musical! The teachers are amazing people. We had the 6th grade band, the 6th grade orchestra, then the 7th grade ones....ai... that was the only drawback. So many kids participating that they have to split them up into so many groups that we were there for three hours.

You'd think I could spin a story out of all this. Hmm. I did want to have something involving a music school (probably descended from my "Firebird and Violin" thing which...I don't remember much about). And the invasion of the evil alien plants. But I have yet to get around to writing them.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The White Tiger Billion Goods Company (Doctor Who)

This is the second story I wrote for the Big Finish Short Trips thing (got it done right before the deadline.) It was also rejected. Heh. Features the 8th Doctor and Charley.



A picnic. That's all Charley asked for: a sunny meadow, a blanket, and a basket of food. Not monsters, not deaths, and not endless chases up and down corridors. The Doctor did his best to oblige.

"Saena Prime, a bucolic paradise of villages in perfect harmony with the countryside. Overly regimented for my taste: they achieve their harmony by regulating every last breath and footprint." The Doctor headed for the TARDIS doors. "Still, it's the perfect place for a picnic, as long as we keep a low profile. Just smell that air!"

Charley followed him outside and inhaled deeply. "I smell smoke." She found its source in the village square below. "People with torches, about to light...a bonfire?"

"Probably some traditional summer celebration. All the better. The locals will be distracted."

"There's an old woman tied to that pole. They're going to burn her!"

"They what?" The Doctor spun around. "We have to stop them!"

He dashed back into the TARDIS and re-emerged with what looked like bright orange guns. "Here. Andromedan fire extinguisher. Point the nozzle at the base of the fire and pull this lever."

They hurtled towards the village, the Doctor using one hand to fish an official-looking card out of his pockets as they ran.

"Everyone freeze! Health and safety inspection!" The Doctor flashed the card at the startled crowd, then dived forward and shocked the growing flames into submission with a spray of white foam. Charley followed suit on the other side. "You are in violation of Regulation 7532 governing carbon combustion in open spaces."

"But we have a permit for the fire!"

"Ah, but not for the smoke. I see no record of form 7532-C on file." Then he muttered out of the side of his mouth, "Knife. Left front pocket." The Doctor aimed Charley at the prisoner. "We'll be taking her, of course, as evidence."

"Now wait just a minute..."

"No time!" The Doctor took the freed woman by one arm while Charley supported her on the other side and navigated back through the mob, brandishing his card as a shield. "Quick, Charley, back to the TARDIS."

"...that's a library card!" shouted the closest torch-wielding villager. "Get them!"

The Doctor dropped the card and the woman's arm to fire foam straight at the man's face. "Not today, thank you. Run!"

They barely made it back to the TARDIS ahead of the mob. The Doctor hit the dematerialization switch while the old woman collapsed, coughing and wheezing, into an armchair.

"Don't worry. We're safe here." Charley fetched the woman a cup of water. "This is the Doctor and I'm Charlotte Pollard."

"Felicity Chen, eternally in your debt," gasped the old woman once she could speak again.

"Well, we could hardly let them burn you at the stake," said Charley.

"Indeed," said the Doctor. "What did they have against you, Mrs. Chen?"

"I'm from off-world. Mistake. Meant to land at Saena Secundus."

Charley eyed the Doctor. "Just as well we left, then. 'Bucolic paradise,' you said?"

The Doctor coughed. "It's been a while since my last visit. I don't remember them being quite so xenophobic. Anyway. Saena Secundus, main spaceport. Will that do?"

"Wonderfully!"

The journey didn't take long. The old woman was recovered enough by then to hobble out on her own feet. She marvelled at the blue police box shape. "It's very compact."

"I find it convenient," said the Doctor.

"And the interior! A real eye-opener. A perfect home, except..." The old woman hesitated.

"Except what?" asked Charley.

"It's only my bad taste that I find any fault in it. Except it's lacking one thing. A Nine Happiness White Tiger Clock. Thank you so much for saving my life!" She grasped the Doctor's hand between both of hers. "Good bye!"

Mrs. Chen was soon lost in the anonymity of the spaceport.

The Doctor blinked at the glossy flyer he found himself holding.

"What's that?"

"'Come to the Grand Opening of the White Tiger Billion Goods Company,'" read the Doctor. "'Spend one thousand imperial flying tortoises and receive a free gift...'"

"Isn't that redundant?"

"'...of a special collector's edition of our famous Nine Happiness White Tiger Clock. Offer ends soon!'"

"It's a trap," suggested Charley.

"Probably not." The Doctor stared in bemusement at the illustration. "Who baits a trap with something so...kitsch?"

"Oh, please, Doctor. You can't be thinking of going?" Charley sighed. "So, what can you buy with one thousand imperial flying tortoises?"

"About one milligrain of jethrik, or a ten year subscription to the New Galactic Herald. Come on, Charley, let's go."

The journey took no longer than the previous one, though it spanned a greater distance.

"Here we are. Orange yellow green. Remember that." The Doctor nodded at the striped column next to the TARDIS. "I hate forgetting where I parked."

"In the middle of Kitchenware," said Charley. She frowned at the brightly lit displays. "Miles of shelves and not a shop assistant in sight."

"Oh, it's completely automated," explained the Doctor. "It's basically a vending machine the size of a small moon."

"Lovely. I can't say I care much for the background music. Or the merchandise. Do we really need a ---" Charley paused to read the label. "A Draconian egg slicer? Or a salamander grill? Or a cast iron karahi?"

"Mmm. Maybe not," conceded the Doctor. "Perhaps we'll find something more interesting...this way!" He strode off confidently in a random direction.

"Doctor! That wall. It moved!" Charley stopped in her tracks. "So this is a trap after all."

"Nonsense," scoffed the Doctor. "The place is fitted with smart shelves, that's all. They're all the rage in this time zone. A computer tracks your eye movements and deduces via a rather ingenious algorithm where your interests lie, then generates a path to maximize your expected spending."

"It's watching us? Ugh, what a thought!" Charley flung an arm over her eyes and tried to follow the Doctor without looking at anything.

She studied their fellow customers, instead. "Hmmm. Not much of a crowd, for a Grand Opening."

"Well, it's a big place. Besides, places like this, if it's not the Grand Opening, it's the Store Closing sale. I once knew a shop that was officially closing for over ten years."

"Never mind that. Doctor, that man over there looks just like you. I mean, exactly like you, except with shorter hair."

"What man? Oh, him." The Doctor sauntered up to his lookalike. "Hello, there. What do you think of this --- ah --- sonic bread machine?"

"Shuh shuh fablo!" said the man.

"I quite agree. It uses sound waves to make the dough rise. That'd come in handy in the Yeast Exclusion Zone."

"Wunka shoom. Aloka ha ha ha!"

"I see." The Doctor frowned and turned to Charley. "You're right, he does look like me."

"But what is he saying?" whispered Charley. "I thought the TARDIS translated everything."

"It can't translate what isn't there. He isn't really talking at all. In fact ---" The Doctor abruptly swung a hand right through the man's face. " --- he isn't there at all! Randomized holographic reflections, generated to make the customer feel at ease."

"It's creepy!"

"Ekili dekily," burbled the hologram. "Help. Help us. We can't get ---"

"Wait, what did you say? Doctor..."

"Yes, I heard."

The hologram hiccuped. "Ekili dekily. Help. Help us. We can't get." Blip. "Ekili dekily. Help..."

"Sounds like a message. But why is it repeating itself like that?"

"A sign of hasty programming," muttered the Doctor as his holographic reflection continued looping. He squinted up at the ceiling. "The projectors are up there. I wonder if I can access an interface... Charley, hold the shelf steady."

He hauled himself onto the nearest display and climbed. Charley grabbed the edge, but as she followed the Doctor's progress, the shelf slid away from under her hands.

"With your eyes, Charley! Keep your focus on the bread machine."

"Ah, right." She dropped her gaze to the machine. The hologram continued pleading behind her. She heard the whine of the sonic screwdriver, then a click.

"As I thought. Now if I can... Charley!" The Doctor scrambled for his footing as the shelf jerked beneath him.

"Sorry! But someone's coming!"

"Where?" The Doctor dropped to the ground with a thump. "It's Mrs. Chen!"

The old woman hobbled purposefully towards them, shelves parting before her.

"Is she a holo-whatsit too?"

"I doubt it. Or the shelves wouldn't register her presence."

The old woman shuffled to a stop before them. She raised her hands and clapped. The holograms disappeared from all around them in a fizz of static. "A glitch. The White Tiger Billion Goods Company apologizes for the inconvenience."

"Hello, Mrs. Chen." The Doctor smiled. "How pleasant to see you again!"

"'Again'? Forgive me, but you must be mistaken. We've never met."

"Of course we have," said Charley indignantly. "Of all the...wait. Doctor, do you think we've arrived here before she left?"

"No, it's not that."

"I understand." The old woman smiled. "Perhaps it was one of my sisters. We all look the same to you."

"No, it's not that, either," protested the Doctor. "Unless..."

"It's ok! No worries. I am here to welcome you to our Premium Membership Club." The old woman stepped forward to shake both of their hands simultaneously.

"Charley, keep back!" The Doctor dodged away, but Charley was a beat too slow.

"Ow!" Charley snatched her hand back when the old woman released it. The image of a tiger's snarling face was inked deeply into her palm. "That burns!"

The old woman reached for the Doctor. She said sternly, "The upgrade is mandatory!"

The Doctor looked at his hand. "You mean that literally, don't you?"

Then with his other hand, he aimed the sonic screwdriver at her head. It buzzed shrilly. The old woman crumpled. The Doctor caught her and opened a panel on the back of her skull. "And you really do look just like your 'sisters'."

"She's a robot?"

"Something like that." The Doctor fiddled with the controls. "I've switched her power off."

"And the one we met before?"

"Yes. That would explain...yes. The people of Saena Prime have an intense dislike for artificial life forms."

"I'll say. But she seemed so human!"

"In a way, she is." The Doctor frowned. "Hello, what's this? Emergency power?"

The old woman stirred, joints creaking. She croaked, "Emergency program...online. You must...leave...now. She is...marked. Danger."

The Doctor turned to Charley and seized her hand. "What kind of danger? Poison?"

The old woman stood. "Marked for special packaging. Must go to...Central processing." Her voice changed. "Help. Help us. We can't get out. The system won't let anyone leave. We're in Central, but the doors won't hold for long. I can't override the main computer, but I can hack into the emergency protocols and record a message, piggybacked on the PR droids."

"I see," said the Doctor.

"You do?"

"We have to get out of here." The Doctor pulled Charley after him. "Which way to Central?"

"This way." The old woman hurried away, shelves shifting away to give her a straight path. "Don't waver..."

The Doctor and Charley followed.

Then the ground began to vibrate. A deep rumble shook their bones. Something very large and very heavy was approaching.

Charley risked a quick glance over her shoulder. A vast machine rolled towards them, walls prostrating themselves before its bulk.

"The Mobile Packaging Unit!" cried the old woman. "It's homing in on her. Run!"

But more walls slammed shut, barring their escape. The Doctor pushed and glared at the shelves in vain. "They're locked."

"The packer projects an override signal."

Charley searched for something to defend herself with. She settled for what looked like a spear. "It says this Githarian lobster pick can cut through the diamond shells of Githarian lobsters. Let's see what it does to --- agh!"

The pick clattered aside as a scaly steel tendril wrapped itself around her wrist, then reeled her inexorably closer.

"Stop!" The old woman inserted herself between Charley and the machine, clamping her hands over the tendril. Charley felt a shock numb her arm, then staggered back, suddenly freed.

"This way!" The Doctor tugged at her wrist. "I've over-ridden the override."

"But..."

"Go!" said the old woman. "It will process me, first. That will take time."

"Yes. Thank you, Mrs. Chen!" The Doctor and Charley fled, leaving ominous hisses, grinding whirs, and squeals behind them. But without Mrs. Chen's inhuman gaze to hold their path, the walls turned mazelike again, veering this way and that.

"This won't do!" The Doctor extracted a red cricket ball from his pockets and sent it rolling before them. "Keep your eyes on the ball! Focus!"

At first it seemed to work. Then Charley found blurry images flickering around her, demanding her attention.

"Holographic pop-ups!" said the Doctor. "Ignore them!"

She tried. She could hear the rumbling noise of the machine catching up behind them, and tried not to think about what "processing" might entail.

"Ignore it! We're almost there."

Charley nailed her gaze to the red splotch of the ball. But wait! There were now two of them. Four. Eight. Which one to follow? She couldn't tell which one was real.

Then she realized she couldn't see the Doctor anymore.

"Charley!"

Steel whipped around her ankles. Her wrists. Her waist. Coils tightened.

Ice stung at the back of the neck.

Then white.

White.

Silence.

Nothing.

***

"Once upon a time," said the Doctor, "one of the programming geniuses of the White Tiger Trading Company, tired of implementing the headache-inducing algorithms developed by the marketing mathematicians, decided to simplify his work."

It took Charley a long time before she understood that she was awake.

"He said to himself, this genius, that it was obvious that the longer a customer spent shopping, the more they would buy. Thus all he had to do was to program the system to maximize everyone's stay in the White Tiger Billion Goods Trading Company."

It took even longer for her to remember who she was.

"Don't worry, the paralysis will wear off. But you see what went wrong. A careless definition of 'everyone' and 'maximize', and hey presto, the computer responded by packing everyone into stasis bottles and shelving them with the rest of the merchandise!"

Charley tried to speak, couldn't. So how did we get out?

"I reached Central while you were being packaged. After that, it was simple to shut the whole thing down. First, though, I had to get everyone out."

"How?"

"Ah. I ended up ordering the lot and having everyone delivered to the TARDIS! And do you know, it cost me just over one thousand imperial flying tortoises. And you know what that means!"

Charley finally forced her eyes open. A tiger-shaped clock ticked away on the console. "It's tiny! And...it doesn't match the rest of your decor."

The Doctor's face fell. "No. Isn't that the way it always is? Now, about that picnic I promised you..."