Friday, December 31, 2010

The last day of the year

Happy new year to me! Congratulations on successfully completing my Fulbright fellowship, for becoming part of the Romani research community, for some interesting teaching experiments, for actually working through the preliminaries to a novel and writing 150 pages. NaNoWriMo winner! And on Monday I get a hearing aid so perhaps trying to figure out what everyone around me is saying will require less energy in the new year.

But where am  I today on my writing project? I have completed a satisfactory draft of the four chapters, plus a good deal of a fifth, and of a prelude. I have a good but not completed idea of what this will all be about. Some of that develops in writing itself, some needs to be planned and considered ahead of time. I have some realistic and ambitious goals. My longer term goal is to complete the first draft of this volume of the three-volume novel by the beginning of the summer, at which point I will do a editorial but not comprehensive re-write. Instead I will commence on the second volume (Havel's Bridge) over the summer and hopefully be ready to write a major section for NaNoWriMo next year, while at the same time re-writing Bloem more thoroughly so as to cohere with its companion volume. I want Bloem to be in submittable manuscript form one year from today, with perhaps a couple hundred pages of Havel done too. I'm not looking to seek an agent or publication -- beside contests like Amazon -- until I have two complete volumes, and a good plan and beginning for the third. I have a job, so I can take the time necessary to do this correctly. My longest long-term goal is to sell this book and to eventually make some living out of writing. Unrealistic? No, not with persistence and vision.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The new season

The month-long writing marathon was very invigorating, though exhausting, and was perhaps the most important thing I've ever done as an aspiring novelist. That is, I wrote. I put other things aside, I made time when there was no time, I was not discouraged by the lack of a coherent plan,  I made stuff up as I went along, and I believe that my writing improved. I also demonstrated to myself that it was possible, even in what is probably the busiest month in the academic calendar, for me to write fiction.

Since then, though, it's been difficult to get back on the horse. I had all this other stuff I had to do, related to the paying job. There was some other stuff that I thought I ought to do, like work on research papers. And there was the fact that I had written myself off my map, literally. So, while I have put few words in the narrative down over the past three weeks, I have done some preliminary research that hopefully will allow the narrative to proceed in a good direction. Having read a lot of young adult fantasy/sci-fi novels recently, I know that there are underlying themes and motifs and mysteries to be revealed and problems to be solved and that the whole thing needs to hang together and make some sense. And a world with "magic" needs to a magical world, and the magic has a history.

Now I am ready to begin again. I have completed most of my necessary work, and with some sadness, crossed out plans to work on projects I in which I have invested a great deal of time and energy. You can't have it all.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Creating a magic system

There's magic of a sort in this book, but I haven't conceptualized in any detail how it works, or how it will contribute to the story. Right now, it has mostly been used sociologically, as a means of marking the one with magic.

Here's Stuart Jaffee from Magical worlds on magic systems as a way to develop characters.

"Think about how you build a character when you are doing the ground work before you write the tale.  Part of it is simply sitting back and letting your imagination play.  And part of it is asking questions.  How does this character feel about hard work or religion or putting herself in dangerous situations?  What does this character fear?  What’s this character’s favorite food or color or movie?  In fact, the majority of character building can be summed up as asking yourself questions.
Well, I’m sure you see where this is going — the same can be said for building a magic system.  The initial part is just letting your imagination go.  Let it play a game of “What if?” and see what happens.  But the second part is the crucial “asking questions” phase.  What does this magic look like?  Can anybody use it?  What is the cost of using it?  What are its limits?  Is it something people and/or animals are born with or is it something developed over time?  Do you have to go to school for it?  What are people’s attitudes towards the magic and those who wield it?  The more questions you ask, the better you will understand how the magic works."

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Time for a little horror

I was thinking ahead to the next section, when Bloem is a captive of the New Order deep in the salt mine, because I hadn't given any thought to what she would be doing there, or why. So I've come up with the grisly idea of medical experience, a la Dr. Mengele, on Talented children and youth, to figure out how they work, or how to make more who will follow orders. Somehow, amber is involved. I see that I can buy amber necklaces guaranteed to drive away arthritis pain, and that amber has been a part of alternative medicine for millenia. Ibn Sina, in his Al-Qanun ti l-tibb identified amber (kahrubá in Arabic) as a magnetic substance useful in curing many diseases.

In 12th century Poland, amber was thought to be the most efficacious of medicinals. Here is a recipe for tincture to cure all that might ail you:

  • Crush 15 grams of amber chips in a mortar.
  • Add it to 250 ml of vodka.
  • Store the vodka for 10 days in a warm dark place. Be sure to shake it at least one a day.
  • After 10 days, more is better, the tincture is ready. You do not have to decant or filter it. You just pour off what you need. When it is almost all used, crush the amber again and start a new batch.

Here's a bottle of Dr Fenners Kidney & Backache Cure made from amber, produced in Fredonia, NY, from 1872-1898. It cost a dollar a bottle!
19th Century Amber  Dr Fenners Kidney & Backache Cure Bottle

Here's a bottle of Dr Fenners Kidney & Backache Cure made from amber, produced in Fredonia, NY, from 1872-1898. It cost a dollar a bottle!

According to the GemStoneDeva,

Amber (Chemical Composition: 75% C, 10% H, 15% O + S) cures and protects the bronchial tubes, helps the teething of babies. Against fears, phobias, depression, hysteria, asthma, bronchitis, whooping cough, infections, fevers, yellow fever and malaria. Strengthens teeth, stops bleeding, against rheumatism, laryngitis, fatigue, for a trouble free pregnancy, against shingles, intestinal problems, poisoning, good for bladder and heart, metabolism, spine and viral diseases. Amber prevents goitre because it stimulates the energy flow in the thyroid. Works fantastic against Graves' disease (formerly known as Basedow disease). Amber is a stone that attracts love. As an amulet Amber protects against negativity, sorcery and witchcraft. Amber has always been associated with witchcraft. Put a large piece of Amber on your altar to enhance your magic. This is also one of the reasons why many wiccans wear necklaces of Amber and Jet during rituals. Amber is used for all magical purposes.

Here's an amber mine in Kaliningrad:

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


After the mad rush to 50,000 words in November, and the need to take care of some deferred business lately, and not nearly finished with that, I'm gearing up for the next phase. Last night I finished chapter 5, and I plan to finish chapters 6 and 7 (the whole Wedroniczki section) before school recommences. My hope is to have an entire first draft by the end of the second semester. Though that may depend on whether I take April to do Script Frenzy -- it would be a good way to jump-start that portion of my projected new career, and to get me going into the summer.

I have less then a complete plan for the rest of this section, though I must say that the plan I started with for the last section does not correspond to where things eventually went, in many cases. The general outline is for Bloem and Yuma and a couple of the male scouts and scout leader, to become involved in the smuggling of amber from Kaliningrad into Poland. Besides its value as a jewel, there must be some connection between amber and talents. The amber is going to the Agathi to enrich them, and allow further suppression of the resistance, and the Talented. There's some more to work out about this, but it sound potentially plausible. Perhaps the goal is for Solidarity to smuggle the amber in, for its own purposes, and Yuma is involved in this illegal trade through Kaliningrad. This leads to some kind of skirmish in which Bloem has to choose a side between her Wedroniczki colleagues and Yuma's smugglers. In the "battle" (details to be imagined, but it ought to have some coolness factor, Bloem must choose between the two. She chooses Yuma, allows herself to be arrested in place of Yuma, but is surprised when it is Pavel who takes her into custody. It is in this section that she experiences some kind of push-back to her powers, some force that can undo what she can do. The sense that she is chosen, for reasons as of yet unknown to her, to play a role, not yet known to her, becomes more pronounced.

Friday, December 10, 2010

What I wrote for NaNoWriMo

Progress has been made, no repatriation done! Here's most of the work to date: chapter 5 almost done. But now I need a new monthly goal.

Bloem in Flight 12-07-10

SO: this month, I'd like to finish chapter 5, complete chapter 6, and make a good start on chapter 7. This will require some bit of planning, though I never got to plan much last month and it was hardly missed.

Sunday, December 05, 2010


Winner. Bloem in Flight -- 50,000 words, 5 chapters, 150 pages