All posts tagged novel

IWSG – Massive Rewrites Ahead

Published September 2, 2020 by Iphis of Scyros

Okay, pre-writing this post even more in advance than usual (today is the 21st!), because right now the situation is freshly in my mind and I haven’t been distracted by the other, much smaller rewriting project I’m about to start (and which I will be eyeballs deep in by the time this post goes up).

So, for the past week(ish), I’ve been rereading the series of quasi-Young Adult novels I wrote in 2104, set 17-20 years after the Trojan War, starring the illegitimate daughters of Achilles and Odysseus (both characters I made up) and the (equally illegitimate) son of Aias (who is a genuine mythological character whose actions as an adult have been lost to time but undoubtedly do not resemble my version in any way).  This wasn’t a simple reread, however.  This was a detailed reread, leaving myself a lot of notes using the “Comment” feature on the word processor.  Because I had a look at these already, back in July (or was it June?), and realized that hey, they were actually a lot better than I had remembered them being.  And so I kind of wanted to polish them up for release (for free via LeanPub and, naturally), which promises to be a much faster endeavor (sort of) than finishing the world-building to polish up that low-fantasy-with-steampunk-elements novel that also needs rewriting and releasing.

Of course, there are a lot of associated works that would also want fixing up.  The whole novel series started out as a spin-off of my Trojan War novel Ilios, which I had temporarily published via LeanPub and then eventually took down because I was quite ashamed of how bad it was.  (I have not at the moment revisited it to see if I want to try to fix it up, because I know that would be even more work.  Plus it is not aimed at the same audience.)  On top of that, there’s a novella called “Patroclos and Achilles” which was also a spin-off of Ilios, and which I directly referenced in the new introduction for Ariadne, the daughter of Odysseus.  I just reread that one this morning, and overall it’s actually pretty good (which is good, since it’s currently floating around the internet already…I think…or was it the other thing about them in the afterlife that’s already up…?) except that the ending makes me cringe, because it got a lot of things flat-out backwards, because there was a lot I didn’t understand about same-sex relationships in ancient Greece before reading The Greeks and Greek Love by James Davidson, and now that I do understand those things (and consequently a lot of ancient Greek culture makes more sense!) I want to fix anything and everything that I’ve written that gets it wrong.  So the novella probably needs to get the first rewrite, before I move on to the Atalanta and Ariadne books.  There will need to be a lot of work done on every reference to same-sex love in those books, naturally.  The mindset I gave the characters was appallingly modern in that for some reason too many people found it funny to think that Achilles had been the boyfriend of his friend and “squire” Patroclos.  There is no reason anyone in classical Greece would have found that funny…though there is the question of if we have any freaking way of guessing what the Greek attitudes towards such relationships would have been in the Late Bronze Age, since we have no written texts from the Mycenaeans other than clerical documents like inventory lists and notes on court cases.  (Though considering some lines of the Iliad have to be aged back to the Mycenaean era in order for the lines to be restored to their proper dactylic hexameter, it does seem possible, if not probable, that enough of the mythic aspects of the culture were unchanged by the end of the Bronze Age that they can be taken to reflect many of the cultural details of the era in which they were set.  Possibly.)

Anyway, the same-sex stuff is pretty minor in the Atalanta and Ariadne books (which really need a series title, but I’m not sure what the heck it would be, considering the early books give no indication just what a massive foe they’re eventually going to go up against, even though at foe’s servants have been targeting them at least since book one, if not from several years before it) compared to a lot of the other things that need fixing.  Matters of clothing for non-Greek peoples at the time (though at least I did learn at some point post-writing them that they would absolutely know what trousers are, so I can dispense with the absurd descriptions of “leg sleeves”) are one of the things that need a thorough fixing, but at least that’s something that will be relatively easily dealt with.

The biggest problem is how to handle the lack of money.

And no, I don’t mean I’m broke.  (Though I do have less of it than I’d like since I lost my job.)  And I don’t mean my heroic trio is broke, either.

I mean the fact that they didn’t have coinage yet in the Late Bronze Age.

I apparently didn’t know that when I was writing these books, especially the first one, which (among other things) has a fairly lengthy and important sequence in a marketplace.

How do you write a marketplace in a barter economy?

I mean, I know they had them.  The Mexica (aka Aztecs) had marketplaces, but in their case it was made simpler because they used cacao beans as a form of proto-currency (which even led to a form of counterfeiting, because some people would hollow out the beans and be trading with empty husks!), but that’s the only case I’m aware of in which there are written records of a non-money-based market.  (The written records being the accounts of the conquistadores seeing said market, so they are not the greatest of records, being essentially tourist accounts written by people of lesser education and not scholarly analyses.)  Based on the Iliad, the main way things seem to have been “valued” was by how many oxen they were worth, but I can’t really have two teenage girls and an early twenties young man carrying oxen about to trade with.  (Though it would be amusing to see them try it!  Goodness knows Atalanta would probably be able to carry a small ox a short distance, as could Eurysakes…maybe.  Ariadne, no.  Just no.  A very small calf, maybe.  A lamb or a kid, definitely.  But I don’t recall measurements of value in sheep and goats, just oxen.  Though I’m ashamed to admit that it’s been years at this point since I last read the Iliad.)

Does anyone know of any books — fiction or non-fiction — about how people might hold a market in a place without money?

I could really use some examples, whether how other people handle it in fiction or how people in reality dealt with things before there was money.  (I mean, realistically, how did food get shared about?  Did the nobles gather up the food from the farmers and then redistribute it to the people, or did the farmers take it to a market to trade it for other things they needed, like clothes, new animals or hired hands?)  Outside of the first book, it’s not going to be a huge issue, since they mostly get what they need in the later books via guest-friendship as they spend a lot of time visiting (and often going on quests for) kings who had fought alongside their fathers at Troy, but wow, is that first book hamstrung until I know how to handle the marketplace!

Additionally, there are various other concerns, mostly around trying to make the books line up better with history/archaeology.  There are a lot of books I read in the two years after writing the books that dealt with the subject of that area in the Late Bronze Age, like The Ahhiyawa Texts, but that was years ago now, and I’ve forgotten a lot of the details, and some of them were gotten out of the university library that I no longer have access to now that I’ve graduated, while others are probably in this house somewhere but I have no freaking idea where because my life is a pigsty.  For two of the books, I’d also need to do a lot of research into what Babylon looked like at the time, and what the court of Ramses II would have looked like, but those shouldn’t be too difficult with non-academic sources…I hope.

Speaking of other things that need fixing up, you may have noticed the word “squire” in quotes up above.  The translation of the Iliad that I’m fond of (it’s prose instead of trying to force the translation into English verse, and it uses the proper Greek names instead of Roman ones) is from like 1913 (give or take a decade), so it does use some awkward things like describing Meriones as “nephew and squire” of Idomeneus, and describing people as “knightly” and so on.  That means those things got into my books, too.  😦  It is so annoying, and decidedly anachronistic, but I have no idea what the period-appropriate term would be.  While I’m sure most readers would probably accept using the anachronistic medieval term “squire” since it’s quite easy for modern people to understand what it means about the person’s professional role, I dislike it for its extreme anachronism.  I should probably have a look at the most recent translation(s) of the Iliad and see how they handled whatever term was being replaced with “squire”.  Mostly, this is only going to impact the prologues (each book has a prologue set during the war) and when they meet certain Trojan War veterans (including the aforementioned Meriones), but it’s something I want to be able to fix on general principles.

A more wide-ranging problem is that I have to figure out how much a sixteen-year-old slave girl in the Late Bronze Age who had somehow kept herself entirely chaste would typically have known about sex.  Because one of the ways I wanted Atalanta and Ariadne to be different from their fathers is that they remain virgins, unlike Atalanta’s father who was quite lusty (the number of his accomplished/potential/desired conquests at Troy seems to grow every time I read a new book on the subject) and unlike Ariadne’s father who slept his way around the Mediterranean for ten years before finally going home to his all-too-faithful wife.  For some reason, when I was first writing these, I decided to accomplish that by having Atalanta nearly kill a man to stop him from raping her, following which Athene erased all her memories of the very concept of sex, and nothing can ever make her remember that sex even exists.

I have no idea why I did something so mind-bogglingly stupid.

My new version is much more simple:  she’s asexual.

I think the reason for the bizarre backstory gymnastics is that I wrote these books about a year and a half before I came to understand that I myself am asexual, so…I don’t know.  As an explanation, it doesn’t entirely make sense, but it’s the best one I can come up with, honestly.

Whatever the reason I originally wrote it, it has to go.  Now, I do want Atalanta to retain a childlike innocence (including on sexual matters), but there’s not going to be anything supernatural or traumatic about it.  She’s just not terribly bright and doesn’t pick up on subtext and subtle details of situations, and the classical Greeks certainly didn’t like to…well, they didn’t like to write about sex, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they didn’t like to talk about it and doesn’t necessarily mean the same was the case about their Late Bronze Age ancestors, but one does tend to fill in the gaps with the historical culture when one is dealing with the Greek Heroic Age.  Anyway, I have to decide just how much she knows, and how much she suspects of what she doesn’t know, and how she would interpret any mentions of things she doesn’t know.  That will have to be figured out before I can start writing, and it will be a lot of work making sure to catch every single absurd instance and replace it with something more simple and believable.  Atalanta spent all seven books sort of traipsing back and forth across the line from “possessing the mind of an absurdly stupid child” to “just a little bit dim and very innocent”, and that’s generally something I need to fix.  I also need to fix Ariadne’s side of their relationship; they’re very co-dependent, in an entirely platonic, non-romantic way on Atalanta’s part, whereas I realized late in the game that Ariadne is actually in love with Atalanta and refusing to admit it even to herself, so I need to work that in and make it more obvious throughout and yet in a way that makes it clear that Ariadne will never be willing to act on her feelings.  (That may be a more subtle task than I’m capable of, but we’ll just have to see what happens in the new drafts!)

I also have various other things I have to decide on, too.  Like, I don’t want to use the Aeneid‘s version of the immediate post-Troy events, but I also have scattered throughout the books various references to the journey of “Aeneas” with his band of Trojan refugees.  So I’m thinking of setting up something halfway between the Iliad‘s version of post-Troy events (in which Poseidon commented that Aineias was to become the new king of Troy after the war) and the Roman version, so that Aineias became King of Troy as planned by the Greek gods, only then Korythos (son of Alexander/Paris by his first wife, the nymph Oenone) drives him out and takes over the kingship, so Aineias still sets off for the future site of Rome.  (And I don’t think the gens Julius completely made up the idea of Roman descent from Aeneas/Aineias; I think they did get that from some of the Greek settlers in Italy, as the ancient Greeks did love to set up mythical ancestors for various people they met (Medes, Perses, etc).)  But I’ll have to decide when that happened, how far they had gotten in rebuilding the walls, how much violence was entailed, why in the world Aineias would have fled rather than stayed and continued to fight (especially against a son of that weakling Alexander!) and so forth.  Some versions of the abduction of Helen do include Aineias having gone with Alexander to Sparta, so maybe this should be a version like that (though there’s no indication of Aineias being there in the one flashback I have to the abduction itself…though given the presence of his mother in the flashback it wouldn’t be hard to believe it) and Korythos makes the demand to the remaining people of Troy that they shouldn’t follow Aineias since he aided and abetted in the arrival of the harlot who ruined the marriage of Korythos’ parents and for whose sake the citadel of Troy was besieged for ten years and then destroyed.  Yeah, that might work, actually.  Korythos wouldn’t even need an army if he turned the majority of the people against Aineias.  Cool, so that’s one less thing to worry about.

Names, on the other hand, are something to worry about.  Specifically, how far do I want to go in using the Greek names?  Like, some of them are easy.  Patroclos > Patroclus, Aias > Ajax, Aineias > Aeneas, Heracles > Hercules, Zeus > Jupiter (like anyone now would use that in a Greek setting, lol), but do I want to go the whole hog?  Do I want to use Achilleus instead of Achilles, Alexandros instead of Alexander, Ganymedes instead of Ganymede, Bellerophontes instead of Bellerophon…stuff like that.  (And yes, all those names do come up in the books.  (BTW, the spellchecker in my browser is insisting that the correct spelling of “Bellerophon” is “Telephoner”.  Like, wow.))  Part of me is annoyed with myself for using any of the Romanized/Anglicized versions, but the rest of me is like “seriously, Achilleus and Ganymedes?” (For some reason I’m much more cool with Bellerophontes than a lot of the other typically-always-Romanized/Anglicized-even-by-scholars names.)

Speaking of names, I’m not even sure what I should be calling the Greek people as a group.  For the historic period, Hellenes would be correct, and I do use it sometimes.  In the Iliad, the names Achaians, Danaans and Argives are used pretty much as direct synonyms, chosen for metrical reasons.  Of course, Argives was right out as a choice in my books because that specifically means people from Argos.  Achaians — while the source of the Hittite name for the Mycenaean Greeks, Ahhiyawa — seems most likely to refer specifically to people from Achaia Phthiotis, the region of Thessaly where Achilles’ father Peleus reigned.  (Unlike the classical Greeks with their city-states, the Mycenaeans seem to have had kingdoms in more of the sense we think of for Medieval Europe.  As far as I can tell.  Which isn’t far.)  Danaan was likewise the source of a foreign name that may have referred to Mycenaean Greeks (Danaja, used by the Egyptians and possibly also the Phoenicians, and which I do have Ramses II use), but as I recall it doesn’t even refer to a particular location in Greece, but rather to a mythical ancestor figure.  I’m not sure if that makes it more likely to have been what the Mycenaeans called themselves (Hellas and Hellene, after all, coming from the mythical figure Hellen) or if it was actually applied to them by mistake by their contemporaries and then the mythical figure was made up to explain it after it had stuck.  (The mythical figure might have even been made up in the classical period to explain the LBA-authentic name Danaan used in Homer, for all I know.  There are, after all, many things in the Iliad that are accurate to the Late Bronze Age but not to the classical era, particularly in the Catalog of Ships, where some of the places were so long gone by the historic period that no one even knew where they had been.)  There’s a lot that the scholarly community doesn’t know about this sort of thing, and even more that I don’t know, since it’s been years since I did the research, and I never got too far into the really detailed and up-to-date research even back then.  What would actually be correct is, of course, of lesser importance in this case than the basic question of which name should I use?  In the original drafts of the books, I primarily used Achaians, with a pretty hefty dose of Hellenes, and the occasional Danaans thrown in there just to be confusing.  😛  At some point after the novels were finished, I wrote an invocation of the Muse-type intro to the series that defined Achaians as people from northern Greece and Danaans as people from the Peloponnese, which is not entirely out of line with scholarly thinking as far as I remember and is entirely in line with how foreign people use the related terms (since the Hittites were more northerly and the Egyptians directly south), but…I dunno.  Among other things, trying to define the peoples by where they live in an invocation to the Muse feels weird in and of itself!  (But on the other hand it would at least give me some consistency, while still allowing the Egyptians to call them Danaja.)


I could probably keep going with this post forever and not run out of issues I’m going to have with these rewrites, but I’ve been at this for like three hours now, so I think I better stop.  Especially since I was supposed to be spending this afternoon sorting through the ghastly build up in my inbox.  😦  Guess that’s being put off yet another day…

Anyway, my biggest worry at the moment is, as I indicated, how in the world to handle a marketplace in a pre-money economy.  I’d like it to be as realistic as possible to what the Late Bronze Age was like, but how in the world does one look up what a Hittite marketplace looked like ca. 1230 BCE?  (It’s the marketplace in the mostly-rebuilt Troy, which was in Hittite territory.)  I’m going to have to do some heavy research before I dive into the rewrites.

But first I’m going to do the rewrite on my fusion of Velvet Goldmine with the 1996 (rather awful) movie adaptation of Emma, which means now I need to dive into rereading the original book and keep my rewrites in pace with my rereading, so I can keep straight things like how long Emma spent using “Mr.” in talking to and about Frank Churchill, when Mrs. Weston had her baby, when the Knightley boys returned to London, etc.  (All things that were completely ignored by said film adaptation, naturally.  I need to watch the new adaptation whenever it makes it onto Netflix or Hulu or whatever.  I missed it in the theatres because its release was cut short by all the theatres closing…but I do want to see a good (or at least better) adaptation, even if its Frank Churchill will never be as hot.)  And that’s precisely why I’m writing this post so far in advance, because otherwise my mind will be filled with Regency England instead of the Mediterranean in the Late Bronze Age .

IWSG – Always Second-Guessing Myself

Published August 5, 2020 by Iphis of Scyros

So, following July’s Camp NotNaNo, I find I have new problems and complications.

A couple of months back, I posted about my plan to make a video game set in the world of my low-fantasy-with-a-few-steampunk-elements novel series.  (I call it a series, but I’ve only written the first novel, and it’s still in the rewriting phase.  Although the current draft is light years better than the first draft.)  A lot of July was spent working on developing and filling out a template containing all the information I would need for each country.  I only got through the first five…and technically didn’t actually get through any of them, because I added a bunch more questions so late in the month that I never answered any of the new questions.

Thing is, it took me that long to do that much world-building prep for the countries where I didn’t need to do a lot of research first.  Meaning, of course, that the other countries will take even longer to complete.  But that’s only a minor complication, not a problem.

The problem is that my plan was to have 26 countries in this fictional world.  (Although after putting together a really bad attempt at a map, I have been toying with the idea of reducing that to about 23 or 24, because one of the continents turned out much smaller on that map, which made me just stop and think about how hard it would be to create really distinct countries for a continent based on pre-European-contact South America, since most of the cultures we only know about archaeologically, leaving a lot of gaps in what we know, particularly since none of those cultures had writing.  Anyway, whether I end up making 23 countries or 26, if I made the international trade and travel game, that would mean a minimum of 23 cities to visit, yeah?  A bit large for a traditional RPG (I think most of the JRPGs I play tend to max out around 15 towns), but these wouldn’t be full towns for personal exploration, so on the surface that doesn’t sound too bad.

Only it would actually be a lot more than that.  The plan for the game, so far, is that you start out in the Britain-like country, working for an international trading conglomerate, and doing trade runs within the country.  Then after an event involving sky pirates, you end up moving up in the company, and get to do trade runs with the rest of the world.

If the home country has 5-8 towns and all the rest of the world has only one town per country, that’s going to be really lame.  But if all 23-26 countries also have 5-8 towns…!  That’s a minimum of 115 towns and a maximum of 208.

Even 115 towns is way more than I would be able to create, I’m fairly certain.  Not by myself.

I haven’t entirely given up on the idea, because I think it really would make a kick-ass game, but I’ve put it on the back burner, as an “after I’ve finished the novels” type thing.  And fortunately, I don’t have to do as much of the world-building in order to work on the novels.  They won’t be visiting every single country in the world in the novels, so for any country they don’t go to, I don’t need the nitty-gritty details, just the big picture, particularly about how the country relates to the other countries around it.  And some of it is not really relevant even for countries they do go to.  For example, the care of the elderly never came up in the first novel, so if I failed to answer that question on the Britain-equivalent, then that’s all right.  And it isn’t likely to come up in the brief time they’re in the France-like country at the beginning of the second book (they end up leaving pretty quickly, escorting the deposed-queen-in-hiding to her brother, the king of the next country over) either, so if I have proven unable to answer that question there, too, it’s not important.  On the other countries where I don’t know yet what the plot of the book will entail (technically, I don’t even know how many books there will be total or how many countries they’ll end up visiting, though I have definite plans for the ones based on Rome, Greece, Egypt, Japan and the Incan Empire), for the most part as long as I can answer the bigger questions, I can fill in the smaller details later if I realize the novel in question will require it.  But there’s still a massive amount of work to be done, in both research and world-building question-answering, and it’s still feeling quite overwhelming.

Meanwhile, a brief burst of renewed love for ancient Greek mythology had me spend a few days rereading large chunks of my quasi-Young Adult novels about the daughters of Achilles and Odysseus and the son of Aias, and I’m feeling like maybe they’re worth polishing up and releasing (for free via LeanPub and, of course) after all.  And although when I first realized that I said “no, after the world-building and its related novels,” wouldn’t it make more sense to do the rewrites on a completed novel series first, as that’s a shorter process than all that research and world-building and rewriting and writing?

Or am I just trying to make excuses to get out of so much tedious, low-level research?

Part of me fears it’s just excuses, in all honesty.

Right now, I’m still trying to finish the fanfiction piece I started in the final days of July, but after that…well, I want to start rereading Emma to be able to polish up the fusion piece I wrote based on it (since I kind of promised (well, strongly implied, anyway) I would start posting it in the fall) at the end of this month/beginning of next month, but after I’m done with that….I’m not sure.  I might go back to Atalanta and Ariadne for a while instead of keeping going with this tedious world-building.  Between what I’m working on right now and Emma, I want to keep working on the myths associated with the world-building; there are a lot of myths still to write for pretty much all the cultures I’ve already got myths for (I stupidly forgot to include tales of heroes (outside of the epics) in the ones based on Greece and Rome!), and I haven’t even started the myths inspired by the Scandinavian/Teutonic myths.

Ultimately, I’m feeling really torn about what to do.  Especially because now that I’m unemployed, I want to be spending my time working on something that I could somehow make some money at, which means I absolutely should not be writing, because my writing is garbage and will never get me paid.  (Yeah, I could try to make money off it, self-publishing my novels and asking money in exchange for them, but it’s not like anyone would actually cough up said money.  They’d look at the preview chapters and nope right on out of there.  If it’s free, there’s at least a tiny chance one or two people might think the story sounded interesting enough to put up with my crappy writing to get at it.)  Unfortunately, there’s not really much I can do that people would pay me for.  There are all sorts of roadblocks cropping up in between me and getting paid to proofread others’ works, and there’s nothing else I’m good at.  (Okay, technically, I was pretty okay at my job, but no museums are going to be hiring for a couple of years at the rate things are going, so that’s not really relevant.)

Maybe I should try writing non-fiction.  I did have an idea to get together with a former co-worker and put out a book about a particularly underdocumented doll line, but that would depend on her still having her notes on the subject and on our being able to convince the director of the museum to give us copies of all the photos that were taken a few years back of the museum’s large collection of that kind of doll.  It would also depend on getting photos from other museums and from private collectors.  The private collectors part would probably be a lot easier to accomplish than the museum photos.  Still, I should call her at some point and see if she’s interested.  It would at least be something slightly productive to do…

Another weird day

Published July 16, 2020 by Iphis of Scyros

On the one hand, I spent most of the day completely failing to get interested in doing any world-building work. And once I did get going, I nearly lost all momentum when I answered the phone and got stuck in a half-hour long survey about the local race for State Senate. (Ironically, if they had allowed it, I could have saved us both a lot of time by saying “look, just put me as max opposed to the incumbent on everything because he’s a legitimate monster and max in favor of his opponent on everything because she’s awesome and I’ve been her supporter since her first campaign for State Representative like ten years ago,” but they would never have gone along with that.)

Um, anyway, I did manage to get back into it a bit after the call, though I did run out of steam before I could finish the template for the France-inspired country. But I only have three sections to go (Gender Roles, Clothing and Fashion, The Arts) so that’s at least something.

Anyway, it was before the call that I came to my big “oh, wait, what’s really going on here?” moment.

See, one of the few strong moments of borrowing specific historical events as well as borrowing cultural influence is that the France-inspired country had a revolution not too long before the books. (Though I did actually come up with a good excuse for it. All the humans on the world of these novels were brought there from Earth between two and four thousand years ago (I haven’t decided how long it was between the arrival of the last humans and the events two thousand years before the novels that broke the humans free of the control of this world’s native life forms) and although their memories of Earth were wiped, they maintained their languages and some concepts of their cultures. The beings that brought them here now live in hiding in the shadows, and they like to mess with the humans, secretly influencing their behavior, including things like inciting a revolution in the group descended from Gaulish Celts in order to imitate the French Revolution.)

Anyway, I was getting to the questions about religion, and how important it is to the culture, and realized I was sort of in a bind. See, one of the major characters to be introduced in the second book is the deposed queen of that country, because she and her children survived, having already been replaced with body doubles before they could be executed. (The king was not so lucky.) Anyway, because she’s a major player in the next book, I already have a pretty good idea of what her character is like, and that’s where the problem comes in.

So, in the French Revolution, the revolutionary government actually attempted to disestablish the Christian religion in France and make their new nation exclusively atheist. In most of my earlier plans on the subject, the revolutionaries in my France-like nation were going to be similarly anti-religion and especially anti-superstition. But then I thought, “wait, wouldn’t it be more cool if they were reactionaries instead, trying to force an outmoded and outdated religious practice on the people?” And I do like that concept still, only the more I think about it, the more I realize that the queen is anything but scientific. She’s not religious, either, though. To most people’s eyes, she’s superstitious, because she’s one of the few who can see the planet’s native life forms, which are now believed to be mythical by most humans. (There is a reason they’re invisible to most people, but it takes about a book and a half (at least) to get there.)

Anyway, so I’m not sure what to do about that. I haven’t written all their myths yet (technically, I’ve only partially written one, and the only reason I have even that much is because I decided that the mythic saga inspired by the Arthurian myths belonged more accurately in France than in Britain, since all the oldest texts were written by French authors and the myth is more of a Breton thing overall, plus there’s already such a wealth of mythic traditions in the British Isles without it, between the Irish, Scottish and Welsh traditions, all of which were there much earlier than the Arthurian cycle) so I’m hoping I’ll have a better idea what to do about it after I do.

Today’s writing time 1:05

Total time in July to date: 15:18:47.21

*sigh* Am I ever gonna stop trying to catch up and get ahead of my goal of an hour a day for Camp NotNaNo?


Published July 14, 2020 by Iphis of Scyros

So, I’ve now gotten through the template for the three countries that are the original homes of the three leads of the novel. I had a bit of a revelation as I did the third one, though.

The third one is the home of Ouden (Greek for “nothing,” a new name she gave herself following the execution of her parents by the puppet government), who I described in my notes at the start as “a pint-sized revolutionary, Gavroche without the tragic ending.” (She’s only 10, btw.)

Anyway, I had always described her parents with two words: “pacifist abolitionists.” Thing is, her homeland is based on Classical Sparta, which (as everyone knows) was all about war and fighting and (as every classicist knows) was a slavery-driven society wherein the (ethnically Greek) slaves of the polis outnumbered the citizens by about 5 to 1. (Okay, the numbers may not be 100% accurate, but they did vastly outnumber the citizens. And no Spartan man went into battle without seven helot slaves…which is why the number of Greek dead at Thermopylae was (according to Herodotus) about 5,000, not 2,300. (The other 2,000 were Thespians who were being compelled to fight against their will, and therefore denied any share of glory, despite dying in battle against the exact same overwhelming foe. Though not actually as overwhelming as Herodotus described, of course.)

Anyway, it suddenly occurred to me as I was writing out all the details about their culture that it made no freaking sense to have people raised in that culture be pacifists. (It’s not quite as unusual for them to oppose slavery, since they’re the only country in the world that has it.) So that meant I had to figure out how they could have been raised in the same way as everyone else and yet come to have such different values.

And the obvious (possibly only?) explanation seemed to me that they weren’t raised in that culture at all. So now I realize that they were both the children of ambassadors and raised in foreign countries, and when their parents were discharged from their ambassadorial duties and they finally arrived in the “home” they had never been to before, they were able to see how broken it was. The great thing about this is that I can very naturally set it up in the next book when they get to one of the countries in which her parents were raised, and they meet the Queen, who will of course remember the old ambassador and his little girl. (Um…wait, how old is the queen? Maybe it’s one of her late husband’s servants who remembers Ouden’s mother…)

So, anyway, that was a really great moment of “oh, hey, yeah!” thinking, with which I was rather pleased.

Today’s time: 1:15

Total time in July to date: 13:51:01.97

Yep, I’m almost caught up to where I need to be to have worked an hour a day! Yay!! 😀

Today, a Template

Published July 4, 2020 by Iphis of Scyros

While it’s not the only thing I accomplished in my writing today, one thing I did was to set up a template to use in the world-building for my low-fantasy-with-a-dash-of-steampunk novel series.  (Which I am also using in a video game where you get to control one person in the employ of an international trading conglomerate.)  As most of this template feels like stuff that would be useful in almost all world-building endeavors, I thought I would share it:

Read the rest of this entry →

I now have to sit on the floor…

Published November 23, 2019 by Iphis of Scyros

…if I want to write at home.

It could be a lot worse, so I’m counting my blessings, but it’s also really frustrating in a lot of ways. Especially since I have to sit on the floor to do pretty much everything other than my resin work. (I mean, unless I get my act together and clean out one of the other wooden chairs…)

I need to swallow my pride and use the warranty/replacement program to get the chair fixed/replaced…but first I have to have time to clean up some of the crap in here.


Anyway, today’s writing went okay (except for my backside starting to ache after sitting on the floor too long), except that I did something really dumb. I needed this alien world to be a paradise to my werewolf character because there was no such thing as a full moon there, so she’d never transform (she’s the Wolfman type of werewolf, only without losing control of her actions), and after I spent a fair chunk of time trying to male my heroine explain full moons to people who live on a planet where the moon has no phases, I sat down to think about how that would even work…

…and I came to the sudden realization that it made much more sense if the world in question simply had no moon.

I don’t know why I didn’t think of that right off the bat! Would’ve saved a lot of time.

Still, at least I thought of it eventually! :p

My word count for today was 1,727, giving me a total for the month of 44,773.

Getting close!

(Though it’s plain the new (i.e. main) project won’t hit 50k by itself.)

Tried a chart today…

Published November 20, 2019 by Iphis of Scyros

…let’s see how it looks shrunk down to fit.

Uh…not great.

Plus I’ll have to re-input the data every single day.  😦  Not the greatest solution.

Annoyingly, it turns out there actually is a plugin for charts on WordPress…but you have to be a on a paid plan to use it.  :<

Maybe I should just buy some graph paper and make the graphs myself by hand. ;P

In case you can’t read the chart, my word total today was a measly 1,310, and my total is 41,429.

My word count today was really stymied by the fact that I meandered down a dead end and was temporarily stopped at a bit over 300 words.  The problem with being a pantser — the problem with being mentally hardwired to change things on the fly as I go — is that sometimes you make a wrong turn.  I mean, I was still following the minor outline I had earlier.  Specifically, this part:

it’s a local nobleman who tells them about the way they might be able to undo some of the flood’s effects, though he begs them to stay on at his court, offering such great rewards that they’re sorely tempted to stay.

So, the thing is about this nobleman.  I had them arrive in a strange new location, and they had to meet the local lord, who was going to tell them about something that could help them do whatever they need to do (I have an idea about that part, but it’s still nebulous), but also tempt them with offers to stay and work for him.

I’m not sure why, but the first time around —

Okay, no, let me back up.  See, I decided that I was going to make the planet a paradise, especially in that it wasn’t simply a matriarchy in name while still reflecting the male-dominated cultural attitudes we see on this planet.  (I’m looking at you, Alexandria in Final Fantasy IX.)  That, however, made it rather awkward for the noble to be male instead of female, though.  So I figured a teenage king who had inherited the throne when his mother died in childbirth.

Only he ended up being shallow, boring and…I don’t even know what he was.  I couldn’t find a way to work with him.

No, I couldn’t find a way to work with the attitude he injected into his entire atmosphere.

If that makes sense.

Anyway, after thinking about it for a while, I decided the teenage version had to go.  But I liked the inherited at birth thing, so now the king is four, and it’s his father, the Prince Regent, who’s asking them to stay.  He can be more like a proper nobleman than the teenage version of his son could, without sacrificing what I wanted for that world’s civilization.

Of course, that delayed me.  And also life happened.  Because, you know, life does that.

Finally, first day on the actual project!

Published November 11, 2019 by Iphis of Scyros

LOL, only took me ten days of other stuff before getting to what I would have started on the first if the NaNo site hadn’t been such a train wreck!

Anyway, so today I’m gonna get to the word count first, and then the actual talking about things.  I wrote 1,886 words of the first chapter of the official November novel, making my word count for the month 26,340.  Or possibly 359 words more than that, because that’s how many words I wrote finalizing some plot details.  (Actually, I wrote a few more than that in other parts of the document, but I forgot to count those.  And technically I also wrote down a couple of plots for things I want to write later, but I don’t want to just count every single word I write without any rhyme or reason, y’know?)

The annoying thing about today’s word count is how small it is.

You may be thinking that it doesn’t seem all that small.  I mean, it’s over the official “how many words you have to write a day to reach 50k” after all.  But the thing is…between one thing and another, I didn’t actually start writing until almost 4:30 this afternoon.

Which’d be fine if I’d, say, had to go to work today.  Or had to leave the house to go to lunch with my parents.  Or had a doctor’s appointment.  But no, I didn’t leave the house all day.  Didn’t even get out of my pjs.  (Yes, I’m that lazy.)

It’s just that I slept late, and then I’m reading this really interesting book, and I had a couple of figurines I wanted to finally debox but then I had trouble getting them correctly assembled with each other, and…just all sorts of little stuff kept happening.

Aaaaaanyway…about that plot summary.

I think I mentioned before that I had bought this book called Querent, which has a system to use tarot cards to help DMs for tabletop RPGs come up with storylines.  And that I was going to use it to help out with coming up with the story for this project.

Using it was actually slightly derailed because although I’ve been collecting tarot decks lately, they’re all actually really hard to shuffle because the cards are too big.  (I have no idea how people do it!  Maybe I should look up a how-to video on shuffling tarot cards…)  But then I remembered those cheap little racks of square book-and-bonus things at the checkout at Barnes & Noble and how one had a deck of small tarot cards, and I picked that up.  (Formerly, they had had one with a smaller version of the standard Rider-Waite-Smith deck, but they one they have now is new art only inspired by that deck.  But the important thing is that it’s the same size as standard playing cards, so I can successfully shuffle it without hurting my hands.)

It’s kind of interesting how it turned out.  Some of the results really played beautifully off each other.  Trying to write down the results as they come in is actually really hard (the Querent book is huge) so instead of doing that this time, I just took phone pictures of everything.  I don’t want to bog down my blog with all those pictures, so I’m putting them in a Google album if anyone’s interested.

I’m going to go ahead and retype the plot summary, though.  It’s kind of entertaining how vague it is.  Also I like how it’s both clearly inspired by the results I got and yet also totally my own thing.  So here it is:

At the start of the main story (ie after “Before the Flood”), Merlynne has just dropped off the career path she embarked on after being accepted to the wizarding academy (as it were) she’s writing the application for in class in “Before the Flood.”  Most likely, she’s done the equivalent of dropping out late in a PhD program.  Wolfgirl will also have just given up on something, but I’m not sure what yet.  They meet at rock bottom in a pub.  Something terrible and tragic happens in that pub, and they get swept up in events together because of it.  Probably what happens is that the pub gets flooded, destroying that section of town, causing untold harm to thousands, but because they were in exactly the right place when it happened, they not only survived but gained new abilities.  They’re hoping they can somehow trade away these new abilities to undo the flood, or at least reverse it a bit.  They will eventually learn that they could, in theory, undo the entire flood, but that would wipe out dozens of sentient species and destroy the economies of pretty much every civilization the flood has touched, and they know they can’t do that.  Before they set out, though, it’s a local nobleman who tells them about the way they might be able to undo some of the flood’s effects, though he begs them to stay on at his court, offering such great rewards that they’re sorely tempted to stay.  The proferred rewards include things they’ve secretly wished for.  By the time they learn that they can’t undo part of the flood without undoing all of it (perhaps by visiting the equivalent of the Southern Oracle), they should have learned about the villain and the threat he poses to…um…whatever he poses a threat to.

It went on slightly longer as I theorized about what he posed a threat to, but I’ve omitted that part because a) I’ve decided what it was and b) it would sound really weird.  I mean, like, more so than usual with me.  (Like weirder than what I said yesterday about drunk velociraptors.)  “Before the Flood,” obviously, is the first chapter.  Or possibly prologue.  Or maybe it’s the first of a series of short stories if this doesn’t really turn out to be novel length.  Dunno.  (Oh, and as you may have guessed, the flooding in question in the plot summary does not involve water.  It’s a more magical type of flooding.)

Oh, and no, the secondary character’s not actually named Wolfgirl.  It’s her nickname.  Because…um…actually, I forgot why.  I came up with something really fun on that, but…I thought I was going to remember it so I didn’t write it down only then I didn’t remember it.  I think maybe she’s part werewolf.  Or something.  I really don’t remember.  I’ll figure it out when I get to her introduction.  (I know, I’m such a pantser, even when I plot.)

A couple of other things about today’s writing session.  So, this was the scene I mentioned in the summary, because it was always how I planned to start this chapter, wherein Merlynne is applying to a magical university (no, it’s nothing like Hogwarts) and working on her application in the middle of a history lesson that gives the reader a bit of background information about how our world became her world.  (I won’t go into full details but I will say that elves from outer space play a part in it.)  I was getting a giggle out of writing the history lesson, because it’s a full-on Ben Stein in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off type of thing.  ;P  Because why not?

I agonized briefly over what to name the university she went to, because as soon as I got two words into it, I realized I wanted it to have a stupidly generic acronym.  I thought about trying to contort the English language to give it an acronym that was pronounced (even if not quite spelled) “school” but eventually I settled on CAMPUS:  Centauri Academy of Magical, Pseudomagical and Unknown Sciences.  Because ridiculousness is its own reward.  (In fiction.)

I also had to invent the name of an alien, magical, or future animal of some sort.  (I haven’t decided any details about it yet, only I wanted to have her say something less sweary and more creative than “bullsh*t”.)  I’m terrible at making up names.  Which is why I used this:

This is a Dice Coin, which spins like a top, and you stop it with your finger then use whatever’s to the side of your finger.  This one has the alphabet on it (and sometimes it has given me brilliant, almost Adamsy results, and other times it’s given me gibberish), but most of them have numbers and function as ordinary dice.  Today, it gave me only consonants, so I inserted a couple of vowels and got “wigvadh.”

I’m not 100% satisfied with that, to be honest.

But I’ve come up with worse in the past, so for the moment it’s staying.  (It did, at least, serve its purpose of letting me keep moving with the scene instead of sitting there agonizing over what to name the beings whose tripe the rumor of Merlynne being part-elf was a load of.)

IWSG – Untitled

Published October 2, 2019 by Iphis of Scyros

So, I had this post planned out where I was going to spend the whole time bitching about how the new NaNoWriMo site is broken and hideous and it’s completely killed my desire even to participate, and…

…but I’m not gonna write that post, because I don’t want to just sit here soaking in negativity.

Then I thought I’d write about the monthly question (which I haven’t even looked at in ages, lol) only it turns out I really don’t have anything to say about this month’s optional question.  So instead I shall flounder about for something to say.

I haven’t really been doing much writing lately.  I mean, I try, but I keep failing to get much done.  Not because I have no drive to write and not because I’ve hit a wall in what I’m writing, but because it’s just too freakin’ hot.  I mean, today’s October 1st (pre-writing) and it was over 90° today!  (Which is over 32° for those of you living in civilized countries where you learned metric everything instead of this backwards place.  Are we, like, the only country in the world that hasn’t gone metric yet?  (Although, I have to say, “90” sounds a lot more impressively awful as a temperature than “32” does.  So that’s one small something to be said for Fahrenheit…))

And no, I don’t live in a tropical area where that’s normal.  When I was a kid, October would have been in the 50s or 60s.  Maybe 70s if I was a particularly warm fall.  But those days are long gone.  And yet some people still deny climate change.  Ugh.

Anyway, my body has basically overloaded on hot weather, as far as I can tell, and is violently insisting that any, say, contact between two parts of my body (arm and side, for example) is being interrupted by a frying pan just pulled out of the fire.  Makes it very hard to find a position to sit in to write that doesn’t end up being brutally uncomfortable.  In consequence of which, I haven’t been able to get much writing done.  But a cold front is supposed to move through Wednesday night (or was it Thursday morning) and the rest of the ten day forecast is much more seasonal, so maybe I’ll be able to start writing again.  And sleeping through the night without being woken up by feeling like I’m lying on top of a stove.

It’s a pity that I can’t write for such annoyingly external reasons, because my current story is going pretty well.  My half-pantser/half-plotter method sometimes means I end up with a convoluted mess with an entirely unstable tone, but sometimes it means that as I’m going along I have a terrific idea that ties everything together and fills in holes I had in my plan up until that moment.  I had one of those “aha!” moments just the other day; the main plot of the piece is about a journalist writing a story about the disappearance of a fellow journalist, who the police won’t go looking for, and having no other way to go about it, he ends up investigating the story she had been working on, about the thirty year anniversary of an actor’s defection.  (This is set in 1984, btw.)  So, I knew all along that it was in some way because of that story that she disappeared, but I didn’t know quite why, but then a random little detail I threw in about some of the other research the journalist was doing into the defection told me exactly what the cover-up was that the first journalist had stumbled onto (or that someone at least thought she had stumbled onto) that made her a target.

I’m still left with the nagging question of “so did they get her, or is she in hiding somewhere, and if they got her, is she still alive, or did they kill her?”  It’s a hard question to answer.  I tend to write light, fluffy stuff, so part of me just wants to say “yeah, it was a narrow shave, but she managed to get somewhere safe” but part of me is saying “the journalist’s story is going to have more impact if she was captured and/or killed, so that the exposé can get the crooked politician behind the cover-up impeached.”  See, it’s not set in the real 1984, but an alternate, slightly dystopian one.  Like, in the previous story that this is a sequel to, I had an editor tell the journalist that unlike the man who owned the magazine, he wasn’t a “rabid” liberal, because “if it weren’t for the censorship and the martial law, I’d quite like President Reynolds.”  It’s that kind of a dystopia, you know?  Not so far removed from reality that it’s unimaginable for it to happen (the martial law having first been declared after the attempted assassination in 1981, which I figure would have happened regardless of who was president, since it wasn’t in the slightest bit about Reagan’s politics) but still just off enough that we get jarring statements like that from someone who claims to be at least somewhat politically opposed to the administration.

I might do a halfway between them solution, where she was captured by whichever government agency was stalking her, but a whistleblower-type inside the agency had protected her from any serious negative consequences.  Dunno.  I’ll have to see how it feels when I get there, I guess…

…only who knows when I’ll be able to get there if things don’t cool off first.

OMG, IWSG again?

Published December 5, 2018 by Iphis of Scyros

Where did November go?

Oh, right, it went to NaNo and my final paper.  Bummer.

Well, anyway, NaNo was good.  I had a lot of fun writing out three sets of mythology, loosely inspired by Greek, Roman and Celtic, in that order.  When I finished up with the Celtic (and a very abbreviated inspired-by-Arthurian-legends saga) I contemplated going on to one inspired by Norse/Teutonic myth, since the country based on 19th century Prussia/Bavaria is going to be in the next book and I actually know Norse myths (unlike whatever the heck I’m gonna base the mythic traditions of the France-like country on) but ended up not doing so because I didn’t have any names ready.

And why would that have stopped me, when I once very giddily wrote a sentence containing a character named “Derek Imtootiredtobethinkingupnames”?  Well, because the naming process turned out to be super-important to the other three.  I totally let the meaning of the names dictate how I used the associated characters, and I think that’s going to be really useful when I rewrite the first book (again) to work in all these new cultural details, because it’s let me separate the fictional countries from the real ones that inspired them.  (Of course the France-like country’s revolution is still way too much like the French Revolution for comfort, but…yeah, I’ll figure that out later.)

A few things really stand out that I’m most proud of in writing these mythic structures, particularly for the Greece- and Rome-like countries:

  1. Unlike in reality, where there’s almost no difference between Greek and Roman myths other than the names of the gods, there’s almost nothing the same between the two sets of myths in my fictional world.
  2. Though for the most part I based the personalities of the gods on my perception of their real world counterparts (there are exceptions to that), their relationships to each other are different, to the extent that, for example, the equivalent of Apollo and Hermes are twins, instead of Apollo and Artemis.  (Actually, though, Artemis still ended up having a twin, only it was Athene.  That culture ended up with like three sets of twins among the gods.)  The generational order is radically different from the real Greek and Roman one, which will help to let the reader see the countries as more than just Sparta and Rome under other names.  (Especially important in the latter case, since the previous Imperator is very obviously Hadrian.  Well, insofar as the whole Antinoos thing goes, anyway.)
  3. There are way more goddesses than gods.  Like, to the extent that in the one based on classical Sparta, the equivalent of Hera thought she had given birth to a monster when she gave birth to the equivalent of Ares, because after so many daughters, she didn’t understand that a son was a possibility.
  4. There’s so much less sleeping around, particularly by the Zeus/Jupiter equivalents.  (Although the lack of sleeping around is also kind of a problem, because the Aphrodite/Venus equivalents don’t do much of it, either.  To the extent that there had to be a footnote explaining that the Venus-type was the goddess of love, despite that she pretty much only has the one lover.  Who’s actually her sister.  Sometimes in the form of a man.  Because I thought Hermes/Mercury didn’t get to be enough of a trickster in the real myths, so I let the Mercury-type have transformation powers.)

Anyway, after I finished with the myths, I focused more on my paper (not that I wasn’t already working on it, mind you!), and in my off-minutes, I went back to a fanfic project I’d been working on in October…and ended up gutting and overhauling it mid-writing.  Which is kind of a first for me, but the old version was so much a repeat of another fic I’d written before, so…it’s working out better now.

However, overall, I’ve become aware of a stagnation in my writing.  I’m not sure if it’s because the fandom I’m currently obsessive over doesn’t allow much variety, or if there’s something else wrong, but I have a plan to fix it, which will coincidentally also fix my near-dead blog.  (Hey, two for one special!)

I’ve backed a few games on Kickstarter that are supposed to be party games where everyone sort of improvs a story or parts of one or whatever, but I’m going to use them as writing prompts.  This is especially the case for a game called “Pitchstorm” that arrived during November.  The actual rules of the game are that you draw three cards, one for a character, one for a “plot” and one for really bad notes from studio executives, and then you pitch the movie they would add up to.  What I’m going to do is to pull one of each of those types of cards, and then write a piece of brief fiction that answers those conditions as best I can.  Possibly in some cases it would still be more of a summary than proper fiction, but…the idea’s to get the creative juices flowing, yeah?  And I’m going to post the resulting stories to the blog.

And when will I start this creative new endeavor?

Not sure, actually.  The pinched nerve in my shoulder has come back, along with what feels like a pulled muscle in my right arm, so now that NaNo and class are over, I need to try and let them rest.  I’m trying to find time around work to go get a recliner I can sleep in, which should relieve some of the strain on the shoulder (I hope!) but I won’t even have an opportunity to go shopping for one until next week.

I’m also trying to hurry my way through a cheap-and-dirty finishing of this year’s goals on the Read Harder Challenge, and I’ll be posting capsule reviews for the rest of those books (or as many of them as I actually get through) at some point this month.

As soon as I post this (since it’s after midnight, I may as well just hit “publish” instead of scheduling it for a few hours from now, right?) I’m also going to see if I can change the title of my blog, because I don’t feel like it’s quite right for me anymore.  I mean, yeah, I’m still a graduate student, but only for one more semester.  (Finally, the end is in sight!)  And, well, I dunno.  It just doesn’t quite feel like “me” anymore.


Oh, but before I do!  I mentioned my NaNo novel having footnotes without explaining.  See, I was writing out those myths as part of a “book” on world mythology being written by a scholar who’s a character in the first novel in a series I’m working on.  (Said first novel’s first draft having been last year’s NaNo project.  Which I’ve probably said several times over the last few IWSG posts, but…)  So said scholar turned out to be the type to write extensive informational footnotes.  Because that let me add in all sorts of fun little details that weren’t part of the “symplified myth” narrative.  (Things like how there’s an archaeological site purporting to be where a particular myth took place.  Or historical details, especially the vast changes in the world situation between the first and second editions of the book.  Stuff like that.)

I had quite the shock when I went to validate my win, though.  My 57,575 word novel (yeah, I finished almost every day with a palindrome, because weird) went through the validation process and came out at about 49,500!  My mind boggled at the idea that I had so many words connected by a double-dash that it would have dropped by 8k words.  Until I suddenly realized that it wasn’t counting my footnotes.  (Which, I should admit, were also the footnotes to the first draft of my paper, because I suck like that.)  So I had to re-copy it into the validation box and then go in and manually copy every single footnote.  Then it came out at like 57,300.  And I then edited the total to what Word had told me it was.

I am, however, a bit shocked and appalled that I ended up with 8,000 words of footnotes.

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