Monday, October 31, 2011

sometimes I'm clever

Fellow Furtive Scribbler Holly reminded me of something I'd posted on the book forum some months back, and re-reading it I thought, hm, that's not bad advice. So I thought maybe I'd start an irregular feature on this blog, posting cleverish things I've said elsewhere that might bear repeating.

This was part of a discusssion about following the dictum 'make things worse for your characters', specifically having them get caught while searching someone's room.

Just my take - no, it's not always a good idea to make things harder. If it stops the plot dead in its tracks, if it leads to a pointless roundabout subquest that changes nothing, if it makes the story duller rather than more exciting, then it's a mistake.
Twists should make things harder for your characters but in ways they can overcome while advancing the plot and their own characterisation. (whew!)
You know those legends and fairytales where someone's given a quest but on the way finds he can't accomplish it unless he first goes and gets the sword of Ladidah, but he can't get that until he gets the horse of Wateva, and for that he needs the bridle of Blaah? And you lose all interest in whether he ever gets back to rescuing the princess of Hawtt?
Maybe have them almost caught, to up the tension, but not actually. Protagonists need to win sometimes, or they look like losers.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

airports must be liminal space

I'm at the San Francisco airport, on my way back from the World Fantasy Convention. It was good.
Do not speak to me of synopses. The dead Duke of Buckingham is my King Charles's head. (bonus Dickens reference).
Will post photos and coherent sentences later.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

fall harvest

Last year I cut the grapes back severely in the back yard. But in the summer I got distracted and let them grow madly again, so the grape harvest was not so magnificent a thing as it might have been.
Blueberries would snicker at our grapes, and kick sand in their faces.

On the other hand, with my Snackmaster! I'm collecting a fair bagful of raisins. Not seedless, but tasty. The grapes are tasty too. They may be Pinot Noir--it's been so long since the vines were begun that neither of us remembers. Maybe Cabernet. Then there's the green grapes on the arbour; no idea at all about those.

Behold! A study of my own. Chris's loft bed and shelves have been moved out (thank you, and I have bought a desk ($150) and an ergonomic chair (HAG Capisco) ($80) and dug out my old camping carpet ($25). Then bamboo blinds ($10) against the afternoon sun.
The small bookcases are temporary, because the plan is to fill both long walls with bookshelves, as per ch. 8 of The New Yankee Workshop by Norm Abram, Little Brown 1989. Then I can clear my stacks of books out of the window seat and the computer room. And the latter becomes Mark's office properly, so that he can sort, photograph, and enter antiquities in one place.

The cat approves the carpet as a good place to disembowel her catnip budgie. Next she would like me to get a comfy chair (free) for research, reading, and cat-petting.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

pictures from the past

 Well, from about a month past. Photos from our Living History Week at Fort Rodd Hill. I've chosen a few pictures that I like or think are nicely composed, but I'll provide a commentary pretending that there's an educational aspect to this post.

Remember the clay and cob oven Joan and the kids and I were making? Here it is in action, with Joan in charge. Bread and pastry and buns every day! You build a fire inside the oven, until the interior is hot enough (there are a few different tests for this, disagreeing with each other). Then sweep the fire and fuel out, and insert the thing to be baked, either on the floor of the oven, or on a piece of stone covering the floor of the oven. Cover the mouth of the oven with that square of wood (which does scorch through eventually, yes) and let the contents bake until done.
One of those simple-sounding things that takes much experience and many mistakes to get handy with.

 The labyrinth returned after two days of picking and laying out stones. Here the younger kids make sure that it works properly. The littlest one was a babe in arms last year.

Because we're portraying everyday life and working-class artisans, it's important that everyone have work to do, whether their craft or daily tasks around the camp. Here, weaving narrow-ware. That's a stool turned upside-down serving as the loom.

Gathering for a meal in the dining tent, at a trestle table spread with a linen cloth and loaded with bread, apples, dried fruit, eggs, cheese, sausage, butter and honey. It's a hard life, but we keep our spirits up.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The origin of vampires

As requested!

First, background on magic, in my system. Every living human being has magic in them, just by being alive. Some have much magic, increased by study and practice or by being in proximity to magic (think of it as second-hand smoke), some have only a little.
Back in the mists of time (Bronze Age?) magicians developed a way to join their powers and channel them towards some great task they couldn't accomplish singly. The joining was accomplished by a blood-sharing ceremony and had a tendency to kill or drive insane one of the participants--the weak link in the chain, it was assumed.
The magicians came up with what seemed like a good idea. They would include in the joining someone (a slave or prisoner) who was dying, in hopes that the magic would be directed to that 'weak link' and spare the magicians.
Sometimes it worked as expected. Sometimes it charged the dying person with enough magic that he didn't quite die. Instead he became a sort of zombie, a mindless slave blood-bound to the magicians, and could be maintained semi-alive by small feedings of blood, the same way animal familiars were bound to a magician. And who doesn't want a mindless slave, particularly one who could be used as a sort of magical storage-jar? While it might be filled with magic, it couldn't direct or control that magic, because of not being properly alive.
But if the zombie-slave was overfed, or re-used too many times in the joining ceremony without being burnt out by it, it might become sentient. If the magician who was feeding it died or lost control of it, it might become autonomous. And would still need blood to maintain itself, but would have to go out and get that blood. Thus, vampires.
It's the magic in the blood that maintains them--although they can't control magic, they are magical creatures, and have some powers (glamoury, strength, etc.) that are associated with magic. If one takes a magician's blood to the death, it is charged with enough magic to create another vampire, blood-bound to it.  (There is not a strict one-to-one exchange, by the way). For this reason, second or third generation vampires are forbidden to take magician's blood, lest they become powerful and autonomous. Or, if they take magician's blood in small quantities, they might be blood-bound to the magician instead of to the vampire master who made them.

Somewhere between the Bronze Age and the Early Modern / Late Medieval period, there was enough disruption of the magical tradition that this (fairly closely guarded) knowledge was lost to the magicians. The oldest vampires knew it, but guarded it even more closely.

Now I believe I'll go to bed, so I can be up early and work on the Dread Synopsis.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

October? What?

I'm at the Sheraton in Richmond, at the Vancouver Science Fiction Convention. I've been trying and trying to post some pics from our Living History Week in August, but apparently I can't upload from here. Argh.
This will be a more visually interesting blog in a couple of days.

So, you may recall that I was going to produce a revised synopsis of the new! bigger! expanded! Cost of Silver 'after Labour Day. Which I had thought of as being about a week after Labour Day weekend.

This has not occurred. Instead I have been dashing about for 3 weeks, researching byways of 17th c. life and beliefs and customs and folklore and court intrigue and... And writing bits of synopsis with lots of square brackets [ insert motive here ] and [ why? ]. And writing snippets of conversations and scenes to try to figure out who these characters were and what they wanted.
I've researched
- bog bodies
- Prince Rupert of the Rhine
- fen ecology
- the Duke of Buckingham
- Catholic plots and anti-Catholic plots
- rescue archaeology
- King John's treasure lost in the Wash
- Doctor John Lamb
- alchemy
- etc.
And after consulting with (ie throwing myself on the mercy of) my fellow Furtive Scribblers, I think I have it worked out, including the Origin of Vampires.
Now I must go away for a while and write it.

But I will post some nice pictures soonish.