Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Reached 50,000 but the story ain't over yet...

I reached 50,000 words on the 25th. I should have felt proud, relieved and happy that I fulfilled the requirements for Nanowrimo 2012. After all, my novels in my past 2 Nanos barely scraped by the word count. This one surpassed those two by a bit.

Yes, I finished Nano, but I'm still working on the story. To my surprise and delight, I'm finding that my characters still have so much to say. "Don't edit until December." as the maxim goes. Since 'Shadow of the Queen' is technically the third in my "Four Lands" series, events in this one influences all the other stories in the series. I gave one major character a brother that didn't exist before, and to make things interesting, the brothers are on opposite sides of a brewing war.

I've made notes on what has changed (character names, place names, timeline changes, etc.) so I can keep my details consistent through the series. I've read stories where things didn't make sense with what came before and it's one sure-fire way of pulling me out of the story as a reader.

'Shadow of the Queen' introduces a new world that is a blend of ancient Indian/Arabian/Persian elements. I thought I could fit in all the descriptions of the festivals and rituals in 50,000 words. I was pleasantly mistaken. During Nano, I touched on the major plot points, but skimped on the little details. Now I have the time to expand on those details that make this alternate universe seem more real.

So November is nearly finished, and Nano 2012 is nearly at an end. But my writing journey is still (and always will be) ongoing.

All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2012

Friday, November 23, 2012

Preview for Nanowrimo 2012 'Shadow of the Queen' (iii)

Here is a quick scene I wrote in the midst of Thanksgiving chaos at my family's house.

Zeina 'accidentally' foils an assassination  attempt...without meaning to do it. Gareth is the household's Captain of the Guard, who has secrets of his own.

A hand clapped over my mouth and stifled my surprised yell. Then a strong arm wrapped around my waist and pulled me backwards into the nearest alcove. Warm breath tickled my ear, and jolts of pleasure shot down my nerves,

Suraya bless! I felt a hot flush scorch my face and throat. Suddenly, Najani's ribald teasing took on a new meaning. I wasn't unschooled in such matters, but I throttled the urge to twist around and give in to those impulses.

I was aware of the rhythm of a strong heartbeat as my back pressed against a solid chest, and the smell of jasmine--my own perfumed silks--tickled my nose.The iron-grip tightened for a second, as if its owner could read the tumult of my mind. It slowly eased, as if regaining some sort of control.
"Say nothing. We must remain hidden until the time is right. Understand?"

Gareth! I nodded, then those arms released me as quickly as they had captured me. I whirled around to see his large form pressed against the stone wall of the corridor. He wore the colors of Lord Kidoshu's house, but no protective armor. The torchlight threw his pale skin into sharp relief.


He shook his head and tapped the side of his head with an index fingers. Mental shields are up. I nodded to show him I understood. He turned away from me, his gaze riveted around the corner, at the figures at the front of the Main Hall. Lord Kidoshu, the First Wife, the Caliph and his mate, the Sultana.
Again, I felt that odd stir of anticipation, as if something was about to happen. The torchlight flickered and briefly danced upon the metal tip of an arrow, poking out from behind a heavy curtain.
Aimed directly at the Sultana.

The silent arrow erupted from behind the curtain, and flew across the Main Hall, above the heads of the guests and Handmaidens. I reacted without conscious thought; I extended a hand and nudged its course slightly.

But I wasn't quick enough, and I felt the arrow strike home within my own chest.

I blinked to find myself within the Main Hall, standing directly in front of the honored guests, without any memory of how I got there. A sharp sting drew my gaze downward to find the wooden shaft buried in the left side of my body.

The paralysis released me and I sank to the floor, my nerves ablaze with pain. Seconds dragged into eternity, as a blur of chaos exploded above me. Shouts, screams, curses...but I barely heard them. All my senses began to shut down and I allowed it, now beyond caring.

Suddenly, a burst of rage overwhelmed my mind, and like molten heat, it swept aside everything in its path. The image of a hunting hawk formed in my mind, golden wings spread across the sky, talons outstretched to rip its prey apart. The enemy froze, unable to take its eyes off the majestic sight...

Pain, agony, blood. The torture lasted only moments in reality, but here, within the mystic realm, those moments stretched into years, then centuries. The enemy screamed and begged for mercy, for release, but the Hawk reveled in its revenge.

And by the time it had finished, the enemy lay there, its lifeblood oozing out of its many wounds, to paint the mind-scape a blackish red.

That warm energy seeped into my muscles and bones, fusing itself with me as it bathed and soothed the agony away. I relaxed into it and allowed it to take my Soul with it.

All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2012

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Preview of 'Shadow of the Queen' (II) Nanowrimo 2012

In this preview, the main character learns a harsh lesson in manipulation and loyalty.
In this household, you must 'earn' a proper name. The main character hasn't been assigned one yet, so her nickname here is 'Steady One'.


“Can you do this? Can you do that?” The dance teachers started each new lesson with movement. We imitated monkeys, birds and double-tusked elephants. We laughed as we imagined long-legged river herons and jumping toads. The most awkward of the shekka forgot their self-consciousness and joined in the fun.

There was a method to the madness, for those movements were the basis for new dances. Once we perfected a particular step, we used it for courtly and Festival dances. This made it possible to progress rapidly within the ranks. The teachers kept a close eye on who thrived on dancing.

The local chieftains from around Karamanthore visited Lord Kidoshu every moon-cycle. They sat in private consultation for a whole day. The Fourth Wife told us that these chieftains served Lord Kidoshu's outlying districts. They collected the taxes and served minor duties. Their ranks, like the household, changed constantly.

“We cannot have one of the chieftains get too ambitious,” the Fourth Wife commented. “If they have it in their minds that they are better than Lord Kidoshu, there could be problems in Karamanthore, and that wouldn't be good for the people.”

Calm One nodded in a wise way and said, “There can be many helpers in the cause, but only one leader. There are many aspects of the Goddess, but only one Being over all.”

“Exactly so,” agreed the Fourth Wife, who stroked Calm One's hair with a gentle hand. “There are many variations to the dance, but one original set of steps that began it.”

“Variations are a way of life, as long as we don't forget where we came from.”

I rolled my eyes as the platitudes were volleyed to and fro. The Wives and their favorite ones constantly reminded us about the virtues of our household and how to uphold them. I honestly wondered if they even knew about what they talked, much less understood it.

There was one saying that came from the most cynical of the Handmaidens: “ Do as I say, don't do as I do.” Our lives was one whole contradiction of good intentions with good actions. I wondered whether or not the Shinwai had this problem.

Unfortunately, I discovered fairly quickly that in certain situations, doing as you are told might lead to an unpleasant truth.
“Steady One, I have a task for you,” the dance teacher said. “Silkhair and Bold One already have the solo pieces, but we need someone for an equally important part.”

I made a gesture of acceptance. Yes, Silkhair and Bold One were the favored among the dance teachers. I had long ceased to feel any jealousy towards them, although I wished that I was better.

“The younger girls of the third shekka are having problems with their parts in the ceremony, and the Sixth Wife has trouble keeping instructors. Will you spare a morning and show them what to do? It should not be an inconvenience, for their parts are much simpler than ours.”

I stifled a groan of dismay and bowed instead. “Of course, madrana.

Unfortunately, I discovered just why the other instructors had left Sixth Wife's employment. The woman possessed a waspish temper, with a tongue to match. Her cutting criticism reduced her Handmaidens to tears. I watched as she upbraided her shekka because a single table arrangement was not perfect. The shekka lived in complete fear of her.

“You can deal with them; I cannot seem to get through their thick skulls,” she complained. With that ominous statement, she turned and left the room. I glared at her back and thought, You evil witch. Perhaps if you learned patience, you might see more progress.

I sighed and took pity on the Handmaidens. They crouched down low before me, trembling in abject fear of punishment. This was unacceptable. I cleared my throat and clapped my hands, just like I had seen the Second Wife do. They jumped up to their feet as if I had whipped them.

“Show me what you know,” I said calmly and gestured to the marble-tiled tables behind me. “Let us assume the Caliph and his household is visiting. Arrange the seating with that in mind.”

The Handmaidens scrambled to obey. They moved gracefully from table to table, placing water pitchers and lighting incense burners. Others set golden and scarlet cushions and blankets on the floor, and followed the complicated rules of hospitality. I narrowed my eyes at their efforts; to my eyes, all seemed in order. This was what the third shekka was trained for, and they seemed to do it well.

I walked among the seats and scrutinized the placements. The colors and fabrics matched, and the girls had filled the water pitchers to the correct level. I nodded and said, “Yes, that will do. Now, let me give you another test.”

With a flourish, I glided to the main table and sat in the Caliph's wife's place. The Handmaidens' eyes bulged with shock and surprise at such audacity. I bit back a smile and lounged against the cushions. “I would like to see the Ritual of Hospitality, if you please. The Sultana, wife of the Caliph, wishes it.”

They giggled nervously at my overacting, but the tension dissipated like smoke. They assembled into a small choir and began a song of welcome. I listened to the harmony and tapped the beat with my fingers. Again, their training served them well, for no one missed a note or a rhythm.

It became clearer to me that the problem did not lie with the girls of the third shekka. The problem lay with the Sixth Wife's attitude towards her girls. I posed different scenarios to the Handmaidens and acted the part of the particular honored guest in question. They quickly adapted to the changing circumstances by switching the color schemes to match the colors of the guest's household. They arranged the seating from high rank to low, and they changed the theoretical menu to one appropriate for the occasion.

“I see that the problems have been quite exaggerated.”

We all jumped at the sound of the First Wife's voice and immediately bowed in response. She stood just within my line of vision, her hands hidden within her robes and her face shadowed within her hood. I saw her as an imposing Priestess of Blessed Suraya, then the Vision disappeared.

The First Wife walked among the ranks, then stopped in front of me. “You inspired them to do their best, Steady One, even though you aren't even in their shekka. I am impressed at your fortitude. Don't you agree, Lady Shalali?”

The Sixth Wife flinched at the informal address, said so casually in front of her shekka. “Yes,” she said shortly.

“A mere Handmaiden has accomplished this in half a day. You, a Wife, needed most of a season to do the same, and she still managed to do more.” The First Wife's tone took on a hard edge. “Pathetic.”

I swallowed hard at the First Wife's praise, for it wasn't as uplifting as it sounded. It only served to highlight just how incompetent the Sixth Wife had been in her duties. I had just earned myself another enemy in the household, and one of the Wives, no less!

Then the First Wife did something unprecedented. “Girls, look at what I am about to do and remember it.”

We followed the order and gaped as she reached over to the Sixth Wife's robe. With a sharp tug, she ripped the costly golden flilagree necklace from the Sixth Wife's neck. The matching earrings followed, then the single bronze circlet in the Sixth Wife's hair. The First Wife tossed these precious pieces of jewelry over her shoulder without even looking at them.

“You are dismissed. Go back to your former family in disgrace. Your rank as Sixth Wife no longer exists; your true name will be spoken with disgust...Shalali.” We gasped at the sarcastic tone; the First Wife hadn't even bothered with the title of 'Lady'. “Your former shekka will be administered by the Eighth Wife. Get out of my sight, get out of my household. I know you no longer.”

Shalali—the former Sixth Wife of Lord Kidoshu—gulped down a sob, turned and fled out of the room. The only signs of her presence were the slight blood stains on the floor, where drops had fallen from her ripped ears and scratched skin.

I stared in appalled silence. Of course, we had all heard of the Ritual of Outcasting, but no one had ever seen it invoked. Considering her attitude towards her shekka, I couldn't feel too sorry for Shalali. But outcast a Wife with no warning...

“Girls, retire back to your rooms in the Handmaiden's Hall, and wait for the Eighth Wife to arrive. Steady One--” she looked at me with a look of pleased poison over ice, “--return to your shekka. Advise Governess what has happened here and make sure all know the consequences of failing me.”

We all bowed and did as she ordered. I ran back through the halls, holding back tears of shame. I had believed I was helping the third shekka, but instead, the First Wife had used me as a tool in her punishment of the Sixth.

The First Wife had made her point in front of all of us.  

All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2012

Thursday, November 15, 2012

My (unorthodox) writing style for Nanowrimo, Part I

My first try at Nanowrimo was in 2006. I began at the beginning and kept writing until the end. I named each day's work as 'Session #(Day)'. Here is a snippet of "The Silk Dragon". This story had no fixed plot, but it grew and grew. At about 10K words, I ran out of things to write about, so I did what any young mother did...incorporated what was on the television at the time. The Wiggles, Dora the Explorer, Blue's Clues. Whatever works, works. So this fantasy story incorporated all sorts of fantastic elements that shouldn't have worked together, but somehow did. A quest, a Chosen One, dragons, a Bad Guy to defeat, historical personages (Abe Lincoln and Mark Twain. With Dragons), a Singing Map, a Norse warrior (Freya) and an Aztec princess. Oh, and Clara Barton and Steve Irwin.

And I made it over 50K, barely. 50,018.

Yeah, I still laugh whenever I dig it up and read it. I kept writing, no matter how nonsensical it was or how completely crazy it sounded. 'Write now, edit later'. The strange thing is that I decided to leave it as is and not edit it. After all, who would be interested in reading such a mish-mash?

My second try was in 2011. This time, I had a plan. Anyone who knows me as a writer will gasp in surprise. I studied languages in college and wanted to learn Chinese, so I immersed myself in the language and culture. So The Legacy of the Pearl Dragon was born on Nov. 1, 2011. It introduced the mythical land of Shinwa, an alternate Imperial China. The protagonist, Li Ying, went on a journey to Kemet, an alternate Ancient Egypt. I had scenes that I definitely wanted to include in the story, and I had a beginning, middle and (sort of) end.

I organized it the same way I did "The Silk Dragon", with session numbers, dates and word counts. That worked, for the most part, but as the deadline loomed, I began writing scenes out of order. I also wrote on my laptop and on my desktop, so I could keep an eye on my kids while scribbling.

I coped the text and pasted them where they should be in the main story. I became obsessed with saving, saving, saving my work on both devices, on an external hard drive and CD. It took an incident with spilled coffee and the keyboard to convince me this was necessary.

The Legacy of the Pearl Dragon was again, barely a shade over 50K. I used ideas from this novel-sized monster to write my e-book of short stories, Tales of the Elemental Dragons, Books One and Two. What was meant as a one-shot turned into the beginning of a series.

This year, my Nanowrimo project is titled "The Shadow of the Queen". I wrote a prologue of sorts, but it won't be included in the word count because it's pre-November. This time, my writing process is a bit different. I have two documents, one titled 'Shadow of the Queen' and 'Shadow of the Queen rough cut'.  The first one are scenes that I managed to pen in between taking care of 3 kids, 1 husband, 1 house, and fighting chronic disease. They are completely out of order, since I write whatever strikes me at the time.

The second one is the 'rough cut', like the rough cut of a TV episode or a feature film. The scenes are pasted in somewhat of a coherent order. When I re-read this, it might give me an idea for another scene for the story that bridges between two unrelated ones. Yes, there are contradictions, changed names, impossible travel times between places, and other 'mistakes'.

But the point of Nanowrimo is 'write now, edit later', and like a director/producer/editor of a film, I'll go back and fix those later. What matters is getting the words down on the page, even if it makes no sense, even if no one will read it. Get those thoughts out of your head and break that block that whines, "I don't know what to write!" The ideas will flow if you just do it!

As of today, November 15, I'm at 27009 words. I'm hoping to reach 50K before the end of the month. Keep writing!

All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2012

Monday, November 12, 2012

Teaser for Nanowrimo 2012: "The Shadow of the Queen"

Here is a snippet from my Nano 2012 novel, "Shadow of the Queen". In this scene, Ziya must find her way out of the Otherworld before it is too late.

Night after night, the Priestesses came for me. I was careful to take Healer Panluman's medicine before their arrival. The strange seeds enabled me to observe and to remember what the Priestesses did to my helpless body. The smoke from the nightwort increased every night to the point of flooding the chamber with a gray cloud. The Priestesses had obviously built a strong immunity to the stuff over a long period of time.

I managed to find gaps in the curtains of smoke and slip through into clean air. These gaps increasingly grew smaller and smaller, but I found them anyway. They started as single portals, then double-linked, then triple-linked and more. If I went through the portals in the wrong order, it deposited me back to the beginning, and I had to try again. Eventually, I discovered they also had colored auras, and by matching those auras, I traveled faster to the end.

Those gates stretched into corridors, the corridors into rooms, and the rooms into scenic views. Mountain ranges, blue lakes, forests full of green woody plants. All of them boasted their own unique mazes. I spent an unknown amount of time within them, trying to find a way out.

Finally, I found myself in a barren landscape, gray and lifeless. A poisonous fog lingered at the edge of my inner Vision. Quickly, I strode off away from the fog in search of a door. As I traveled, the ground became uneven and riddled with holes and cracks. The wind strengthened and whipped my ghostly form to and fro. Dead trees, slate-gray rocks, crumbling just went on and on in every direction.

Lightning flashed through the sky. I looked upward to find a glowing square directly above me. I nodded to myself, gathered my strength, and launched myself up through the sky. It was just at my fingertips when a lightning bolt slammed into me. I landed hard on the rocky ground, my bones snapping upon impact. A white-hot blaze of pain took my breath away, and I simply lay there, gasping for breath.

Blessed Suraya, what was that? I dragged myself up into a sitting position, only to feel a sharp stab in my right hip. I gasped at the agony that shot up my entire right side. My hip was broken, my knee dislocated, and I felt a rib or two move in ways that sent my muscles into spasms.

I was going to die in this Goddess-forsaken wasteland. Once my soul ceased to exist, my physical body would quickly follow. I realized that this was how Dehali and Muralkani met their deaths. They hadn't even passed the initial tests; neither had reached this final stage.

No, I will not allow the Priestesses to claim my soul for their own purposes. I will survive! My injuries are only within my mind...I can overcome anything they set for me!

I dragged myself onto my left knee and supported myself with my good left arm. The portal hovered directly above me, warm and inviting. My shattered right shoulder screamed in agony as I forced my hand to clasp the emerald pendant around my neck.

Suraya, give me strength to escape this prison. Give me the Will to return to the living! I clutched the pendant, even as sickness and shock passed through me in long waves. The stone under my fingers grew warm, then hot. I forced my eyes open and gasped as the dusty ground under me began to glow green, with a scarlet edge. Power flowed into me, but it was sluggish, and the ragged spurts only increased the pain.

There was Earth energy, but hidden deep within the ruined landscape. There was no way I could tap into it before my limited strength gave out. Yet there was more than enough death, enough suffering, to fuel the Fire. I felt it overtake the serene emerald, appropriate the Earth energy for itself, transmute it into the Flame of rage and desire.

If I gave into the Flame, it would change my life forever. Which path should I choose? Earth, and die with a pure soul, or Fire, and survive and allow the Dark side of the Goddess to claim me?
My thoughts began to dissolve. Time was running out. I closed my eyes and let the Wheel of Fate make the decision for me.

The ground rumbled under me, as if gathering itself for an explosion. Then it erupted in a maelstrom of hellfire. The power thrummed through my veins and repaired my injuries in a single agonizing moment. I screamed and extended a newly-regenerated right hand at the portal above my head.

And with one massive push, I launched myself through the black sky. More lightning bolts attempted to strike me down again, but their stings were nothing compared to the song of Fire in my veins. I entered the portal and bore down on that pinpoint of light that led me back to the Living.

My last thought was, No one can stop me now. No one. I am the Goddess and the Goddess is me.

All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2012

Thursday, November 8, 2012

ADMIN POST: A bit of reorganization...

Yeah, it's been about 4 months since I posted in this particular blog. It's been a roller coaster ride, health-wise and other-wise. There were some major Real Life issues that took a long time to settle, so my stress level was through the roof. Now that things have been settling down (relatively speaking...anyone who knows me , knows that settling down only means I'm not running around like a headless chicken), I've managed to get back to the things that creatively matter.

A few housekeeping issues:

1) I'm doing National Novel Writing Month this year again. I've done it two previous years, 2006 and 2011. If anyone who's doing it wants to be mutual friends, my username on the Nanowrimo site is writermum1.

2) Connected with that, I'll blog about my writing process during Nanowrimo. Some people do copious outlines and charts, select faces/real life identities for their characters and plan everything to the last letter. Others wing it and don't know what'll come on the page. I'm sorta in the middle, but leaning towards the latter. My style is rather unorthodox, but it works for me.

3) I've recently opened an Etsy shop and redid my Zazzle shop. In between everything, I'm posting my original art work on Etsy for sale, and prints and products on Zazzle in time for the holidays. On top of that, I'm redesigning my author's website. (Stay tuned for details.)

4) Most of my artwork will be here at An Eighth Shot of Espresso. While this covers all of my creative efforts, I'll be back to posting some WIP, like my Nanowrimo project and other work.

and finally (whew), check out the new and updated links list on this blog. It includes links to Etsy, Zazzle, tumblr, Blogger and Google Plus. If you have accounts on these and wish to be friends, let me know! I'd love to hear from you!


All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2012