Reading Thoughts, Ongoing Research, and Writing Self-Analysis

JUST FINISHED

‘Siege of Darkness’ by R.A.  Salvatore (Book 9 of the ‘Legend of Drizzt’ series)

VERDICT

Now THAT is how you do an epic war scene!  70 pages and completely enthralling.  That’s what I love about Salvatore’s writing; the fight scenes are awesome whether large or small.

READING NOW

‘The Gathering Storm’ by Brandon Sanderson (Book 12 of the ‘Wheel of Time’ series)

– X –

The up to date data assembly for the seven locales in my first two ‘Path of’ books have just been completed.  It may seem a small thing, but it helps decide how the character outfits are going to adapt over the course of the series.  It is comforting that some wardrobe changes that were to occur much later in the series (Book 5) can actually begin earlier, and it can feed into one aspect of the wider story to push logically towards the half-way ‘Game Changer’.

– X –

Reading the blogs of my followers, it seems that a common area of pain is the much-maligned proof-reading portion of writing.  Spending all that time listening to the narrator in your head, and only finding out later that its word assembly and thought process can be very illogical and hard to read, is a humbling thing…

Hmm, grammar check did not like that last sentence.

Proof-reading must be done, and it must NOT be done in the wee hours of the morning when you need to be ready for work the next day.

– X –

The last week and a bit were comparatively unproductive writing-wise.  I think there was one lesson learned:  trying to be too faithful to scene setting when it is based on a more recent real-world locale is setting oneself up for procrastination and the emergence of the inner negative voice.  Writing a fantasy novel, however, gives one leeway when the locale is an ancient one and no longer standing as it once did.  Being too close to the real world shuts down your word flow, while a greater degree of freedom makes them flow that much more easily.

– X –

Post 144…

On Venusian Cloud Colony Number Nine: Chapter 4 Scene 2

It was like a home away from home.

As Barney stepped out of the terminal of the Bangui M’Poko International Airport, the humidity of the locale became readily apparent.  He opened his luggage bag and carefully placed his jacket from Geneva inside.  Closing that, he opened his carry-on bag to remove his tablet computer.

The screen showed that the path to Claudio’s contact was a rather direct one.  Taking a right straight out of the airport onto the Avenue de France, his destination was just over eight kilometres away.  Barney knew that converted to around five miles, the running distance that Woody bragged he had never been defeated over.  The road transformed into Rue du Languedoc, with the right turn further along onto Rue du l’Industrie.  Barney chuckled to himself, seeing a commonality between Bangui and Geneva, two very different cities in two very different countries.

Walking along, Barney saw that everything was covered in red dust.  A great majority of the modest high-rise buildings he walked past had white renders that had been turned shades of red and pink by the intrusion of the dust from the deserts to the north.  The black bitumen of the road was almost completely hidden beneath a blanket of rust-coloured particles, but for the parallel lines left by the cars driving along.  He had to walk as far from the road as he could to avoid the spray as they passed, though he could not avoid a light covering.

Arriving at Rue du l’Industrie, Barney saw that the street was lined with office buildings that looked a deal more European than the rest of the city he had seen on his walk.  They had different modern designs, though the prevalence of glass windows seemed the link.  Many of the buildings were emblazoned with the letters DMC in large script.  As Barney walked down the street, he saw the words ‘Diamond & Minerals Collective’ running beneath the larger letters.

His directions said that his destination was at the end of the street.  Continuing onward, he saw a shack that was dwarfed by the other buildings on the street.  It definitely looked like it belonged in the city, with its discoloured white render and a more aged look.  A wooden sign swung in the breeze from the gutter outside the front door, with the words ‘Olapa Gems’ carved into it.  A decrepit metal flywire door, with lines of dark red rust running amongst the white dust and metal frame, let Barney see into the corridor.  The inside looked similar to the outside, with an aged timber floor and peeling paint.  He turned the handle on the flywire, but it was locked.  Looking further inside, he could see an open door at the back of the house, which led out onto a pier.  At its end, a lone figure sat on a plastic chair, facing away towards the river.  A metal bucket sat next to the chair.

Barney walked around the exterior of the house to try and find his way to the pier.  The area was covered in the all-pervading red dust, with small clumps of grass finding their way out of it.  As he reached the backyard, he saw the pier stretched about ten meters into the river.  From the new angle, it could be seen that the person sitting down was fishing.

“Hey there, bud!”

The figure turned to face Barney.  The exposed skin of the man’s face and chest had a slight coating of red dust, which did not hide the deep black tone of his skin.  He wore a loose and ragged singlet, along with an equally shabby pair of running shorts, and had bare feet bare feet.  Barney did not blame him, feeling the sweat clinging to his own body underneath his polo shirt and jeans.  The less clothing sticking to your body, the better.

“Would you be…”  Barney tried to read the name Claudio had given him.  “Azubuike Olapa?”

The onyx man laughed, showing slightly yellowed teeth and pale pink gums.  “Just call me Azu.  It’s easier for everyone.”  He reached down to the pier floor, and out of Barney’s view pulled a pair of fish.  “I’ve caught lunch early for once.”  He stood up from his chair, and began to walk back towards the house.  “Come on over here, don’t be shy.  We can share some of these.”

Barney fairly drooled at the thought as he walked towards the door at the back of house.  “You have no idea how long I’ve been hanging out for a fresh fish.”

Azu gave him a measuring gaze as Barney came closer.  “You look like a native sort.  Where do you hail from?”

“Nhulunbuy.  The Northern Territory in Australia.”

The African man whistled.  “I feel honoured you have travelled so far to see me, though I am wondering why.”

Barney smiled.  “I’ve travelled a slightly further distance to get your expertise.  A bloke named Claudio Grisogno sent me your way.”

Azu’s eyes widened considerably.  “You’re kidding me!  He sent you here from Venus?”

Barney nodded, slightly raising his carry bag.  “I have a sample of diamond he thinks you can provide some expertise with.”

The man’s eyes narrowed angrily as he put a hushing finger to his lips.  “Don’t be saying stuff like that in the open.  Those DMC parasites in their glass towers would be all over you.”  He looked at the carry bag.  “You didn’t declare the goods at the airport?  The staff there would have reported any such items to their masters for a measly couple of dollars.”

A brief shake of his head calmed Azu’s darkened gaze.  The African’s face lightened quickly and became friendly once again.  “Come on inside.  My wife is up at the shops, and should be back soon.  There should be some reasonable side dishes to go with the fish.”

As the pair moved into the house, Azu began a lengthy query on what it was like to work on what was considered the most oppressive work environment known to man.

– X –

Reading Thoughts, Long-Term Research Projects, Reader Feedback Request, and Inadvertent Spoilers!

JUST FINISHED

‘Scarecrow and the Army of Thieves’ by Matthew Reilly

VERDICT

As with every book written by this man, all the time and sweat and fingertip blisters he puts into his writing leads to a book that is read in two days!  I am not sure if reading a book so quickly is a good or bad thing.  The story was exciting, the exclamation points flying thick and fast towards the end, and a few extremely unlikely escapes (what is called a ‘one-percenter’) has you calling bulls*** while you can’t put it down =)

READING NOW

‘Siege of Darkness’ by R.A.  Salvatore (Book 9 of the ‘Legend of Drizzt’ series)

– X –

It took a very long time, but there is a bit of motivation for the big Project!  It is not in the writing, unfortunately, but in the research to make the world work.  The research can be fully accomplished by one extremely awesome website, called Accuweather.  Not a stretch to figure out what the research entails =)

– X –

In a slightly annoying trend, my science fiction short story seems to keep stalling me.  The religion of the country that Barney is now in is predominantly Christian (80%).  The remaining 20% is split somewhat evenly between Islam and traditional religions.  I hope that the ‘traditional religion’ involves Shamanism, because that would be very handy.

Should religion be brought into a science fiction story?

– X –

The plan for Post #151 seems to have been spoiled by a test run.  Well done to one of my very observant followers who realised what was happening and correctly put two and two together =)

By the way, Post #142.  We edge ever closer…

Reading Thoughts, and the Chronologising of Short Stories

JUST FINISHED

‘Wolf of the Plains’ by Conn Iggulden (Book 1 of the ‘Khan’ series)

VERDICT

Very enjoyable read.  It is hard to treat the protagonist as the good guy, since very few people have not heard of Genghis Khan, and fewer still consider him a ‘good guy’.  The story gives him the ‘shade of grey’ required to treat him as more of an anti-hero, a person hard done by in their early years who triumphs through will and determination.  Luckily, the antagonists of the story are easily considered as such with their condescending attitude and questionable actions.

READING NOW

‘Scarecrow and the Army of Thieves’ by Matthew Reilly

THOUGHTS

Why I love Matthew’s writing:  You can read 50 pages in a sitting, and be thoroughly entertained the whole time.  And how I missed the exclamation marks showing even he is enjoying the story he’s spinning.  I found it annoying originally, as it pulled you out of the story by force of the narrator’s excitement.  After getting used to it, I find it somewhat cute =)

Just checked my book list, and SatAoT is my twelfth book read so far this year.  The record of 26 books read back in 2009 looks to be in serious jeopardy =)

– X –

Looking at the list of eighteen short story folders on my thumb drive, I have found a curious pattern that may be worth pursuing.  The historical fiction and fantasy stories each draw their inspirations from true history, or the myths built from the stories of the past.

‘Mune and Mura’ was primarily based in the late 1500’s AD, tipping into the 1600’s for the final chapter.  My current story is drawing its inspiration from the Egypt and Persia of 400 AD, as alluded to by the split Roman Empire and the revolving door of Praetorian Prefects in the Eastern Empire.

My forthcoming historical fictions are inspired by 1100’s AD, 900’s AD, 100’s BC and 400’s BC respectively.

The fantasy inspirations are from 1800’s AD, 700’s AD, 1000’s AD, 800’s AD and 1200’s AD.

My list may need to be arranged by the century it is inspired by, to help guide my future writings.  But, having 15 stories waiting in the wings before the ‘Big Project’ is even mentioned, maybe it is getting too far ahead…

The science fiction stories speak for themselves, though one particular story is based in an increasingly popular subgenre of Victorian era fiction.  Science Fiction seems to function better when a set date is not placed, since the date always seems to mock you when it finally arrives.  Two years from now, there should be hover boards, but it looks highly unlikely =(

– X –

Post #141.  Nine left…  It does not look like OVCC#9 and S&Z will conclude in time.

– X –

Sayeh and Zia: Chapter 2 Scene 1

Susa, Persia

The arrival of Yafeu Babafemi in Susa was announced with great fanfare.

The entourage accompanying the famous merchant from Alexandria numbered at one hundred, with each robe-clad person escorting two camels.  Each camel was loaded with goods, the means with which Yafeu hoped to woo the Lady Zia.  He rode upon a white horse, encased in a white robe and headscarf that had protected him from the desert’s attacks.  The stallion was impeccably kept, even after an almost two month trek across the unforgiving desert.

An honour guard awaited the guests at Susa’s West Gate, with Behnam standing at the gate itself.  The procession was made up of his personal force, along with men of the Susashah.  To everyone’s great surprise, the Shahanshah himself, Yazdegard the First, had dispatched a contingent of his own personal guard from Ctesiphon some weeks earlier, with the men taking ten days to reach Susa.  The show of support from both the regional ruler and the ruler of Persia was meant to assure the Egyptian merchant that all levels of power looked upon this prospective union with great favour.

Yafeu rode his horse towards the gate, stopping to dismount before entering the honour guard.  Turning to his closest subordinate, his message to halt the train of camels was passed along his entourage that still stretched into the distance.  With a flourish, he removed his robe and headscarf.  He wore a silk vest that had wide alternating strips of yellow and blue cutting diagonally to the centre, towards the buttons of sapphire and gold.  His darkly tanned skin accentuated the muscles of his arms, as well as the visible portion of his chest.  His trousers were of loose-fitting black silk, with a decorative sword attached to a leather belt.

He slowly began to walk between the guard, taking in the grandeur with the air of one used to such things.  Seeing his potential father-in-law standing at the gates of the great city, he held his arms out wide in greeting.  Behnam returned the gesture, and he began to walk out.  As the pair reached each other, they embraced warmly before gripping forearms.

Yafeu bowed to his host.  “You honour me far too greatly with such a guard.”

Behnam grinned.  “Both our own Shah and the Shahanshah felt it was only fitting that you and your entourage should be greeted so.”

The younger man’s smile of perfect teeth lit up his face.  His blue eyes were surrounded by the black eyeliner typical of the Egyptians, and he had a modest vandyke beard growing from his chin.  His black hair was close cut, with no visible sideburns.  The leader of the Karawa rejoiced inwardly that such a handsome man had chosen his daughter, sure that many happy years and many grandchildren were in his and Shadi’s future.

Yafeu began to look around.  “Is the Lady Zia not here with you?  Knowing that she would greet me has been my motivation during such a difficult trek.”

Behnam shook his head.  “She insisted on helping her mother prepare our family home for your arrival.  Anticipating your weariness from travel, she is ensuring that a worthy feast awaits you.”

The powerful merchants walked into the city, with the honour guard flanking their sides and rear.  The grand visual drew the eyes of the citizens they passed, though many did not understand the greater meaning of the Egyptian’s visit.  The utmost rule of the merchant was to remain tight-lipped on their activities, lest a loose tongue cause loss of goods and loss of their customers’ trust.

Yafeu’s eyes drank in the sight of the city, comparing it to his childhood and teenage memories.  The city had been considered a jewel of the ancient Achaemenid Empire, being one of the four capitals favoured by generations of Shahanshahs.  The city had suffered during Alexander’s conquest of Persia seven hundred years prior, before reviving as the second most important city of the Seleucid Empire that rose from the ashes of the Macedonian’s path of domination.  The city was later ceded to the ascendant Parthian Empire, where it was the preferred residence of the Shahanshah when Ctesiphon was either being attacked or the winter proved too bitter.  It briefly became the easternmost point of the united Roman Empire.  It was quickly regained by the Parthians, before they were overthrown by the Sassanids.

Turning back to the roads in front, a well-dressed messenger was seen running towards the pair.  He bowed to the two men when he reached them.

“My master, the Susashah, has requested your presence over his afternoon meal.”

Yafeu looked to Behnam.  “Zia and her mother would appreciate the extra time to prepare, as long as we do not indulge with the Shah.”

The leader of the Karawa family laughed.  “That is so.  The ladies have fiery tempers, which I do not wish to face often.”  Behnam turned to the messenger.  “Please return with our grateful acceptance to him.  I am sure Yafeu’s news of the Roman Empire’s woes will entertain him greatly.”

The messenger bowed again before running back the way he had come.

Yafeu raised an eyebrow.  “You have heard of the goings on?”

Behnam laughed again.  “Come now, my boy.  News of puppet rulers do not stay secret long.  I know of the boy ruler Arcadius, who is half a decade younger than you, and his constantly changing guardian.  I heard that Caesarius is angling for a second run in the role of Praetorian prefect, after Eutychianus got ousted again.”

The younger man nodded.  “And the Western Roman Empire is little better.  After the many sackings of Ctesiphon, you are absolutely correct to presume its woes will be of much amusement.”

“Indeed.  Let us hurry, as the Susashah does not like to be kept waiting.  And I do not want to risk the wrath of both of wife and daughter.”

The pair laughed as they quickened their pace, headed to the palace at the centre of the city.

– X –

On Venusian Cloud Colony Number Nine: Chapter 4 Scene 1

The views were greatly varied on the flight from Geneva to Bangui, much to Barney’s enjoyment.  However, the sites below the plane’s belly added to the pang of longing he had for his home.

Leaving the Swiss city, the flight path crossed the Alps on its brief trek above France and into Italy.  The white caps of the mountains were a sight to behold, as were the handful of mountain towns that had been established over the years for the adventurous and the wealthy.  Barney could see small specks amongst the white of the ranges, likely snowboarders or skiers.  Areas allowing such activity were a rarity in Australia, far away from his homeland on the northernmost coast.

The mountains crossed into Italy, with the white and grey elevations descending into the patchwork greenery of fields.  The quilt-like appearance continued all the way through the mainland, interrupted only by winding roads and many cities.  The first prominent city flown past was Florence, where the Roman style architectural style remained apparent.  Further along was the seaside city of Pescara, with a more eclectic mix of building styles.  The fields passed around the prominent agricultural city of Foggio, before continuing on to the seaside town of Taranto and its pair of lakes on the heel of the country.

The fluctuating emerald hues gave way to the undulating sapphire waters of the Ionian Sea, the waves urging the plane and its passengers towards the western islands of Greece.   Flying above the islands of Ithaca and Crete, and the many mountain ranges near the ancient site of the city of Sparta, Barney smirked at their link to the ancient lore of the country.  The stories were believed to date as far back as the 8th century BC, yet his people had established their home in Australia almost 31,000 years earlier than that.

The waters returned as the plane made its way towards Egypt.  The wide view of the north African coastline showed the life giving effect of the Nile River, with the lands surrounding the delta as green as any of the landscapes in Europe.  The coastline moving towards Libya was predominantly bleached desert sands.  The flight continued above the delta before landing in Cairo, the sun beginning to set above the innumerable minarets spread throughout the city.

Barney walked leisurely through the terminal after collecting his luggage. The connecting flight was not due to leave for another couple of hours. The flight would be following the path of the Nile River before moving onto the Kenyan capital of Nairobi, and then heading inland towards Bangui.  He silently cursed the indirect route, meaning the trek he was doing as a favour to Claudio would drag out.  He was sure there would be an extra 25,000 kilometres by the time he returned to Arnhem Land.

The flight between Cairo and Nairobi took place under the cover of night, so Barney used the six hours of flight time to catch up on sleep.  He was woken by the landing gears touching down at Jomo Kenyatta International.  It was still pitch black outside, and the clocks in the terminal indicated it was just before four in the morning.  The connecting flight onto Bangui was still almost four hours away, but he did not want to sleep.  Being in a completely unfamiliar location, he wanted to be sure none of his luggage disappeared.

The hours dragged, with the only activity being the early morning flights out of the airport.  The staff arrived at around five, many of them with a coffee in hand, to begin their preparations for the expected rush of morning flights out to the many capital cities of both Africa and Europe.

The sun began to rise as the request for travellers to Bangui was made.  Making his way to the required departure gate, Barney noticed that there were not many people on his flight.  It meant he could stretch out, but that comfort did not mean much on a flight lasting not much past an hour.

As the flight made its way across the centre of the African continent, Barney had a degree of appreciation for the naming of the area as ‘deepest and darkest’.  Despite the site of Lake Victoria, the second largest body of fresh water in the world, much of the area was hidden.  The forest canopies all across the area were extremely thick, the true land under its foliage a mystery.  The early explorers would likely have been fearful of what awaited them. Barney remembered Liban’s words about the consensus of the natives they encountered back in the days long past, and was not sure if such an opinion would have been true of everyone.

The plane began its descent into Bangui, and Barney was surprised by what he saw.  The area kept the tell-tale thick forest at the city’s edge, following four rivers heading towards the city form its north-west.  Looking at the city roads and houses from this height, much of the city streets were coated in a fine film of red dust.  It had the effect of looking like a much larger version of Nhulunbuy, which gave him a small degree of relief from his slowly increasing homesickness.

After the plane had landed, he collected his luggage for the fourth time in less than a day.  He looked to the clock, and saw he still had an hour before he could contact the company and see if there had been any change in Léana’s condition.

– X –

Welcome!, and Curse you research-induced Writer’s Block!

Post #138.  13 more to go…

I have two new followers to my site.  Thank you to hollisplample and aristaeverettjune for your vote of interest =)

Looking back at when the last posts were made for ‘On Venusian Cloud Colony Number Nine’ and ‘Sayeh and Zia’, realising that it has been over a week (8 days) and just under a week (6 days) for the other is disappointing.

The reason for this is due to a virtue distorting itself into a vice.  It has been mentioned that my orderliness is a good thing, and something that I keep to in an attempt for it to flow into the story and make it a cohesive whole.

Orderliness has demonised itself by stopping me moving on until I complete the next scene (Chapter 4 Scene 1) of OVCC#9.  The flight, including stop-overs, between Geneva and Bangui is almost 19 hours.  The previous post mentioned the various places the flight passes over, and I feel that this diversity should be described well in the first scene of the new chapter.  The changes in scenery help flesh out the cultural and environmental differences to Barney’s homes, mentioned frequently but not yet seen.  It also helps to set up the arrival at Bangui, with its environmental diversity similar to two worlds. One Barney is uncomfortable in, and the other the epitomy of his comfort zone.

Once this block is worked through, the new characters are there, waiting to be introduced and fleshed out.  A niggling issue is whether the sense of foreboding is enough, as only one person has been affected so far, and they are in a coma.  Chapter 4 Scene 2 will be the exact half-way point of the story, so maybe that is a good place to start the carnage.

Once that is done, I can get back to Susa and the impending arrival of the renowned merchant and hopeful suitor, Yafeu Babafemi.

I apologise for the delay in these stories, but I promise that everything is being done to ensure that the quality of the writing is on the up and up.  Thank you for your patience =)