Tag: Writing

It’s Aliiiiiiiive!

UPDATE 3/31/2016: The two editions (paperback/kindle) have finally been merged! The link has been updated on the Tangled Threads Publishing page, as well.

And now, without further ado, I am pleased to announce that Advent of Ruin is now live on Amazon and available for purchase (or borrowing through Kindle Unlimited, if that’s what floats your boat). For the moment there are two links. Once I get those consolidated I’ll update the links on the Tangled Threads Publishing page.

If you want the paperback, it’s here.

If you prefer the eBook, that’s good too.

Both editions one one page!

If you read it, I’d love it if you took the time to leave a review.

Phooey

It seems that WordPress might not actually be pushing my project pages like posts. I knew I was going to need to upgrade my account, but I may actually need to move to self-hosting, as well. So! If you haven’t already noticed, Episode 4 is live. Hopefully sometime soon I’ll be able to sit down with a sketchbook and come up with some illustrations for those pages, but to be honest that’s lower priority than the story itself.

In other news, my Patreon account is also live! If you enjoy my writing, and have a few dollars a month you’re willing to send my way, I hope you’ll pop on over there and take a look. Doing well there will help me do things like hire illustrators so that I can keep turning out quality stories – which, again, are my priority here.

While I’m on the subject, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that my first novel, Advent of Ruin, is I believe still on track to go live on Amazon on March 1. I have a couple quick changes to make to the text, the glossary to finish, and then it’s just formatting. Fingers crossed!

 

Wait, Really?

So I was scanning through my news feed on my phone this morning, and I stumbled across an article on Slate called “Is My Novel Offensive?“. Now, this being Slate, my first reaction was to mutter sarcastically something along the lines of “isn’t everything?” But I clicked through to read it.

Apparently, in addition to beta readers and copy editors and everything else, there’s now a push for authors to employ “sensitivity readers” to avoid the sort of micro-aggressions that are turning college campuses into some of the least free-speech-friendly places in the country.

This can only end well.

Once I got done face-palming and managed to accept that yes, this was really happening, and I probably should have expected it sooner or later, it occurred to me I probably ought to say something about why this is a bad idea.

Most obviously, it strikes me as the sort of thing the beta readers you already have should catch. To use an example from the Slate piece, the idea that frats are perceived differently in historically black colleges strikes me as basic fact-checking.

This is part of why I prefer to write in created worlds. The rules of the world are mine to determine, and I can pull as much or as little from the real world as I want – so long as it is consistent with what has gone before in that work.

On a deeper level, I can’t help but see the push for sensitivity readers as yet more encouragement for self-censorship, and self-censorship is creative suicide. If I, as an American of northern European descent whose family emigrated in the 1600s and who grew up in rural Idaho, was only allowed to write about people like me, neither the Qaehl Cycle nor The Adventures of Einarr Stigandersen would have ever come into being.

You see, the world of the Qaehl was inspired by a single class I took in college on the art history of India. I was fascinated. The art, the sculpture, the music, the mythology, the melting pot of societies (don’t believe me?  If you can get your hands on it, John Keay’s India – A History is a fascinating read. Or the Bollywood movie Jodhaa Akbar makes for an entertaining introduction.) – gave my inner creative self lots of room to play. By 2008, when I was brainstorming the first iteration of this first book, I was beginning to tire of fantasies after the mold of Tolkien, where the settings had been becoming more and more generically European and the subject matter had been getting progressively darker.

Yes, this is where I confess that I can’t read Game of Thrones. I got halfway through the second book and decided it was just too much. Meanwhile, I’m impatiently waiting for book 3 of the Stormlight Archives, so it’s not a matter of length.

What about Einarr? That world came about when I decided I wanted to do a pirate story, but at a lower tech level than you usually see, and I wanted art to be magic. (Quite literally. I may post more about that later, depending on how my Patreon goes.)  If I wanted to do pirates, and I wanted to get away from the rum-running scoundrels of the Caribbean or the Letters of Marque of the renaissance, Vikings gave me the most room to play (because come on, Norse myth is badass).

But, you’re about to object, those are your people!

No, they’re really not. Wherever my ancestors came from (mostly the British Isles, but there’s a fair bit of Germanic and Scandinavian in there, too) I’m an American, and what little experience I have on the water mostly comes from paddling around in our family’s canoe when I was a kid. Furthermore, I’m a girl, and a tomboy-ish one at that. Based on that, what gives me the “right” to write about a 20-something dispossessed Viking prince? I’m separated from his likely mindset by culture, gender, and hundreds of years. But Einarr could never have been “Einara.” (Although that is a cool name that I may have to use elsewhere.)

Caveat: none of this is to excuse anyone trying to write from their research. Research is what allows your world to be internally consistent. I just can’t imagine that encouraging yet more paranoia about offending people will have a good effect on the stories we try to tell. Or that “teachable moments” are an unmitigated good in fiction. If I wanted to be preached at, I’d go to church. You can’t control how other people react to your work, which means that your best bet is to tell a story, and make it entertaining, and let your views come through naturally – without forcing them. Let people decide for themselves. You get better results that way.

Speaking of, if you haven’t checked it out yet, I’ve got the first chapter up of Einarr Stigandersen and the Jotünhall posted. Chapter 2 goes up tomorrow. I’m getting ready to launch a Patreon page, so if you like what you read I hope you’ll consider funding more. I’m not going to pound that drum too loudly in this space, but there’s not much point in doing it if I don’t tell anyone it’s coming. Now I need to get a couple administrative things out of the way so I can get back to the fiction.

The Cursed Throne: From the Pillow Book of Mirumoto Kasumi – end of the Topaz Championship

17 Serpent 1189

Today was the Iaijutsu tournament, the final event of the championship, and a strange day it was.

The tournament was going well right up until the quarterfinals, when I came up against Hiruma Tamotsu-san. I saw through him. I struck first. But as I drew my ankle turned. My strike wobbled. Hiruma-san dodged it easily and defeated me. He then went on to defeat both Kakita Toshiaki-san in the semi-finals and Toku Jun-san in the finals, so I am somewhat mollified. I think, between Hiruma-san and myself, we may have broken Kakita Toshiaki’s “unassailable” confidence.

Grandfather had come to watch, though. He was stern as ever. I came in second for the tournament, by only two points, to Hiruma-san. (Ironically, if he had lost to Toku-san I would have taken the championship, but I think I prefer the smaller blow to my pride.) First he asked me “You’re not satisfied with this, are you?” Of course not! I came to win, after all. Then he asked if I might be tractable enough to join the clan army. I might have, had a better offer not come along that very evening.

I, and my companions from the road save Kakita-san (who appeared to have little interest in the “fate” Iuchi-san believes binds the five of us together), were called in for dinner with Bayushi Soushichirou-sama and Kitsuki Mai-sama – and Prince Tadashi-sama! I was very honored to have been a part of that dinner, as nerve-wracking as it was.

When I return home, I will have to convince Father and Grandfather of why I prefer to go on a musha shugyo, rather than joining the army. I expect they will understand.

The Cursed Throne: From the Pillow-book of Mirumoto Kasumi – the Topaz Championship (part 3)

16 Serpent 1189

Thrilling! Absolutely thrilling. Poor Hikari, though.

This morning was the mass battle, where the thirty remaining contestants were pitted against fifty (!) Daidoji Iron Warriors. Thanks to the efforts of Isawa-san and several others, Hiruma-san managed a groundswell among the contestants to secure the generalship.

(It should be noted that at the time he was doing this, I was having tea with Ryouko in preparation for the night’s challenge. I swear, Kakita Satoshi-san may be the only decent Kakita in existence. Kakita Toshiaki-san underestimated my guard, though; I think his sensei may have praised him over-much as a child.)

At any rate, the battle. Hiruma-san won the generalship, and gave squad command to Hikari , Akodo Takamichi-san, and Hida Ryouta-san. The Daidoji Iron Warriors were led by Taisa Daidoji Masatane – apparently an old friend of Hiruma-san’s father.

Hiruma-san only made one mistake in strategy, to my mind, and I think it came of mountain training. In the first round he kept Hikari’s unit back, most likely to shore up whatever weakness became apparent. In the open field, though, it meant that we didn’t hit the Daidoji as hard as we could have. In terms of position that was a rough start, but with some luck we turned it to our advantage. Hikari rallied the archers. Yoritomo-san got the banner. And I took on the Taisa.

He was leading from the front, so he was already heavily injured when I saw him. I couldn’t let the opportunity pass, though, and never mind that as a Taisa he was sure to best me.

Except he didn’t. He couldn’t get past my guard, and with the guidance of my honored ancestor somehow I defeated him. The battle turned solidly in our favor at that point, and was actually over before the allotted time ran out.

I performed less well in the debate, and not as well as I would have liked in poetry, but that hardly mattered in the face of my performance in battle. In the debate I faced off against Nanbu Kaguya-san, and it predictably became my Akodo heritage against her Scorpion. I managed a tie, which is really as well as I hoped to do. In poetry I drew “nature” – which I believe may have been the broadest of the available topics – and was unable to do better than pedestrian with my offering. I didn’t do poorly, I suppose, but it’s rather bland.

After dinner, I went out drinking with some of my new friends. Kitsune-san insisted he needed to have a talk with the other Mantises first, so he and Yoritomo-san were late, and Hiruma-san apparently had a dinner invitation from the Daidoji Taisa, but otherwise we all went and had an excellent evening.

That does bring me to the other thing that happened today, the event that until this moment I wasn’t certain if I should write about at all. You see, before the battle this morning, Kitsuki Mai-sama brought charges in the murder of Daigotsu Kurami-san before the Shogun against Tsuruchi Kouji.

The evidence was damning, but when Kitsuki-sama asked that he be summarily executed – not even offered the option of seppuku – I got a cold feeling in the pit of my stomach – and justice is fire. When the Shogun asked if anyone would speak for Kouji-san, I did. I asked if he had confessed, and we were told he maintained his innocence. Yoritomo-san stepped forward as well; apparently, to her mind, Kouji-san’s honesty was his one good point. Kitsune-san also stepped forward. Notably, Watanabe-san did not.

Apparently, the Shogun was softened. He offered Kouji-san the option of seppuku or being cast out as a ronin – and he chose to become a ronin! I have had all day to wonder about this, and I still have no answer.

The Cursed Throne: From the Pillow-book of Mirumoto Kasumi – at the Topaz Championship (part 2)

15 Serpent 1189

Another day, another disappointing athletic performance from me. I did not even manage the top eight in the race, although I was close. My stamina failed me on the straightaway before the wall, and I could not recover. Then in jiujitsu I fell in the first round to Usagi-san. As much as I would like to blame fatigue, the voice of Mirumoto suggests even lack of sleep should not have dulled my reactions that badly. I attempted to recenter myself over lunch, but I could not concentrate even well enough for that.

It is worth noting that the Sumai tournament was won by Bayushi Mirai-san, who faced off agains Hida Haruko-san in the final round. I think everyone was surprised by this; certainly Hida-san was, and I think Bayushi-san was, too.

The afternoon was somewhat better. My companions from the road and I were all a part of the same hunting team, and I am now even more convinced that the kami have had a hand in bringing us all together. We also had Toku-san, Bayushi Mirai-san, and Daidoji-san on our team, and the eight of us hunted well together. Hiruma-san is an excellent tracker, and despite the interference of another group of ronin*, we managed to bring in three of the four wani in the field, as well as a clutch of eggs.

(new page)
*Emerald Magistrate Kitsuki-sama has sworn us to secrecy on this matter, and so while I record the events on this page for my own memory, anyone discovered to have broken this seal and read the contents of this page before the appointed time shall feel the full wrath of the Mirumoto Niten.

I do not believe these to be actual ronin. While they wore Rokugani armor, and carried katana, not even ronin would behave in such a fashion.

Toku-san commented early on in the hunt that he thought we were being shadowed. I thought at the time he could have been noticing the Daidoji Iron Warriors who were refereeing the hunt, but that proved not to be the case.

On the trail of the second wani, Toku-san spoke up again. I rather like him, despite the way he tried to peep on us last night. He’s clever and brave, like one might expect of a Monkey, and if that is sometimes misapplied, well, he took his punishment with good humor. All of that aside, this time he was pointing out that the trail was far too easy to follow. Sure enough, the second wani was all-too-obviously bait for a trap.

Hiruma-san vanished into the bushes to scout the hollow; it seems the reputation of the Steel Hummingbirds is well deserved. When he returned, it was decided we would split into two groups and reverse the trap. They had killed one of the Daidoji shadows, and only Bayushi-san was willing to just walk away once we learned that. She’s all right, for a Scorpion, but she is still a Scorpion.

I must admit, a small part of me was glad of the fight. In some small way I feel like it redeemed my performance in the melee yesterday.

When we launched our attack, one of the “ronin” shouted something in a language none of us had ever heard before. Kitsune-san said it wasn’t the tongue of the Ivory Kingdoms, and it didn’t sound like anything Iuchi-san had heard among the Unicorn. I think they are almost certainly gaijin, and I worry that they have come to try and destabilize Rokugan. At any rate, they all fell in short order, like the dogs they were. They fought strangely, though, as though they were somehow able to attack while defending, which shouldn’t be possible. One of them managed to get a lucky stab in on me, but I put him down in my next strike.

While Daidoji-san’s team pursued the last living member of the ambush, Bayushi-san finished off the wani they had used as bait for their trap, and Hiruma-san noticed that the gaijin had a watcher who was out of range and running. I do not think we have seen the last of these foreigners.

Trouble piled upon trouble in that hunt. Hiruma-san tracked the third wani for us, but as we were putting it down a scream rang through the forest. My feet carried me to it before the coherent thought to help had formed, and my teammates were only moments behind. What we found was horrifying.

In a tiny clearing I found the body of Daigotsu Kurami-san, the lone Spider in the Championship. Four teal-green fletched arrows protruded from her back. According to Kitsuki-sama that fletching is characteristic of Tsuruchi arrows, but I do not think Tsuruchi Kouji-san dishonorable enough to kill another samurai – even a Spider – in such a way. I know little of the Kitsuki method, but enough to suspect that Kitsuki-sama believes that answer to be too easy. While there is no love lost for the Spider, the fact that a contestant has been murdered during the contest is . . . troubling.

Both my team and Hida Haruko-san’s team have been sworn to secrecy on this matter. Hopefully it will be unsealed soon, but I have my doubts. Perhaps I am being paranoid, but her murder so soon after the gaijin ambush suggests a connection to me.

The Cursed Throne: From the Pillow Book of Mirumoto Kasumi – at the Topaz Championship (part 1)

14 Serpent 1189

Noon

I have neither excuse for nor understanding of my poor showing in the grand melee this morning. Despite everything, I was caught off-guard by the starting bell, and before I managed to gather myself the Ikoma next to me had grazed me rather impressively. I joined Ryouko and Hikari in the center of the field, but my slow start continued to hinder me. My friends eliminated those in the center, and I took what I thought was a daring move to engage Daidoji Yuuka-san. I thought to eliminate one of the threats from the battlefield, and given the infighting among the Crane, clustered in their corner, I thought I had a chance.

I cut her, but I do not believe I cut deeply enough to trouble her, and not even Ryouko was quick enough to aid me. Daidoji-san knocked me flat in one blow, and my honored ancestor has seen fit to scold me all morning for it.

Ryouko and Hikari showed well, at least, even if Ryouko did lose her temper at Daidoji-san after I fell. She was eliminated nearly as quickly as I was by that woman.

Amazingly, the grand melee came down to Hikari and a Yasuki courtier. Hikari had been wounded by Hida Ryouta-san, though, and Yasuki-san had emerged thus far unscathed. When they traded blows it was Yasuki-san who remained standing, much to everyone’s surprise.

After my poor showing in the melee I decided I would prove myself in the horse race. It quickly emerged that the one to beat was Daidoji-san. Kakita-san says she has a reputation among the Crane for gambling and risk-taking, and after watching her race I believe it.

I nearly managed. Emboldened by my race to Tsuma yesterday, I took the course at a full gallop. I made every hit, I threaded the obstacles with the grace of a Shinjo (no, really, I watched Shinjo Khan-san go through, and everything I had done I saw mirrored in his performance) . . . but I could not make the final jump. In the end, Shinjo-san and I tied for second behind Daidoji-san. He seems like an interesting fellow. Perhaps if I can become friends with Iuchi-san and Shinjo-san, relations with the Unicorn will relax a little?

At any rate, I know now what my first goal must be on my path to proving the superiority of Niten. I must surpass Daidoji Yuuka-san.

To that end, Ryouko, Hikari and I all agreed to cram together over lunch today for law, history, and heraldry. . . and perhaps later tonight I will let Ryouko give me some pointers on jiujitsu. Practicing jiujitsu with Ryouko, though, can be a little hazardous.

. . .

Well. That was an eventful night. I’m glad nothing untoward happened to Akodo Takamichi-san, but I do wish I hadn’t had to go looking for him. It is now well past midnight, and the footrace is happening first thing in the morning.

At any rate, I managed to do passably well on the Law and History test, although I will forever be embarrassed about calling my wakizashi my “duty” instead of my “honor” like a Scorpion. I could have explained it away. Enten is my soul, and Hyoten is my honor, but honor – like justice – burns like fire. It is duty which is an icy bound. But saying that to the Herald . . .

I did rather better than I expected on the Heraldry exam, and won the full four points. I was somewhat surprised to realize that my performance there tied me with Asahina-san for the lead.

After dinner, just as I was about to suggest jiujitsu practice to Ryouko and Hikari, I overheard Daidoji-san organizing an informal girls-only match. That went well, and I feel a little more confident about the sumai competition tomorrow, but that was also where the night started to get eventful.

I was up against Daidoji-san in the ring, and she managed to suplex me. This was annoying, but it did put me at exactly the right angle to see up into the tree branches. Some of the boys had evidently decided it would be fun to spy on our match. We caught Kitsune-san and Toku-san, and Bayushi Mirai-san and Nanbu-san had a brilliant idea for their punishment. They spent the rest of the night hanging by their ankles from the eaves in nothing but their underwear, their faces done up like geisha. A suitable punishment, and one which would injure nothing but the boys’ pride. I let Kitsune-san down to aid in the search, so I guess it was only Toku-san who spent the whole night that way.

There was hardly a pause before I overheard what was about to happen between the Crabs and the Unicorns, and it sounded like something that might get people disqualified. I don’t mind if someone gets injured competing – that’s just a part of the game – but the Crabs were talking about luring Shinjo-san and another Unicorn outside the city to administer a beating, and that’s a different animal entirely.

I’m not going to defend Shinjo-san’s friend; drunk or not, it was a truly terrible insult he offered. However, I saw no good that could come of the planned beating. So I got the Crabs involved in a haiku drinking match. I am too tired right at this moment to recall exactly how I began it, but thankfully they were also drunk and the game was a sufficient distraction.

There is not much to tell about the search for Akodo Takamichi-san, I’m afraid. I wasn’t there when he was found, but Hiruma-san assures us that all was well and he returned to the Golden Carp without incident. And now I must sleep, or I will never manage the race tomorrow.

The Cursed Throne: From the Pillow Book of Mirumoto Kasumi – a Fated Meeting?

13 Serpent 1189

Well. Thanks to Father I was unable to travel with Ryouko and Hikari. I was annoyed at the time, but now I wonder if the spirits didn’t have a hand in that.

This afternoon I reached a checkpoint on the east-west road to Tsuma at the exact same moment as four of my fellow contestants, all of us coming from wildly different directions. Iuchi-san believes the spirits brought us together, and the events of the day do tend to reinforce that view.

Introductions went nearly as smoothly as one could hope. Even the Kakita seems like a decent enough sort for a courtier. After we had passed through the checkpoint he attempted to engage me in conversation about the weather. My remarks on the weather were as follows:

Mountains appear light
Fate hangs in air over plains
Journey to Tsuma

This elicited a chuckle from Hiruma-san. I can only assume he found some irony in the lightness of mountains. Kakita-san reply was passable, and he seems not at all like what I have heard of the Kakita. I do not expect to have to duel him, save perhaps in the Iajutsu tournament.

We elected to walk together the rest of the way to Tsuma to relieve the boredom of a long walk. There was some nastiness with a group of ronin*, but in the end no lasting harm was done, and as we waited to enter Tsuma we realized that we were all assigned to the same inn. Truly, Iuchi-san spoke with insight. We must have come together for some purpose of the kami. Father sometimes has insights of this sort as well; I wonder if this was something he anticipated?

Ryouko and Hikari were kind enough to reserve me a room between theirs at the Laughing Carp, and while Minori couldn’t make it I became acquainted with her fiancé over dinner that evening. I will have to remember to chide her for not telling me she was engaged, but Shiba Yuuji-san seems like he will be an excellent match and I wish them well.

After dinner, I managed to lose at Shogi to Ryouko, and win against Hikari. Truly, a topsy-turvy day. It has been a long day, though, and the grand melée begins the day tomorrow. I must be well-rested so I may acquit myself with honor.

(new page)
*Emerald Magistrate Kitsuki-sama has sworn us to secrecy on this matter, and so while I record the events on this page for my own memory, anyone discovered to have broken this seal and read the contents of this page before the appointed time shall feel the full wrath of the Mirumoto Niten.

The road to Tsuma wound near a riverbank at one point, and a commotion by the river caught our attention. A large group of ronin in red lacquer armor attacked an unmarked palanquin, and the palanquin guards were losing.

I dashed toward the melee, but within moments the last guards standing had fallen. Horror clenched my stomach as one of the two remaining ronin sliced through the palanquin, and even as far away as I was I could see the blood. Hiruma-san shot well, and Iuchi-san’s boulder nearly knocked one of the attackers senseless, but ultimately at least one of them got away.

One of the guards still lived! The palanquin had been traveling for Tsuma, as well, he said, and asked one of us to go get Magistrate Kitsuki-sama. I volunteered, and thanks to the help of Mirumoto-sama I was able to catch the horse without trouble and race to the city.

Oh, impatience, my old enemy. The situation was urgent, true, but it was all I could do not to dance from foot to foot as I convinced the Tsuma guard of my identity and the importance of my mission. Magistrate Kitsuki-sama, thankfully, needed no convincing once she heard the gist of my tale. Mere minutes later I was leading her and twenty other warriors back to the site of the attack, once more at a full run.

When we returned, I discovered that Hiruma-san and Iuchi-san had managed to keep the man in the palanquin alive, and Kakita-san had discovered some letters bearing a strange wolfs-head mon no one seemed to recognize. It was then that Magistrate Kitsuki-sama swore us to secrecy and sent us on our way.