Sunday, May 19, 2013

Little Chicken

    If you ever intend to come to the Daemonayre, there are three rules you have to keep in mind.
One: Always do as you’re told.
Two: If someone gives you an order, at least try to rebel before you carry out their instructions. It helps discourage them from bossing you around in the future.
Three: Don’t bother trying to rule. The rest of us won’t let you.
There is no order to the Daemonayre, no ruler, no true hierarchy. The Daemonayre is balanced. If another daemon has a size advantage on me, then I could best him with speed, strength, or some other way. If I tried to bully another daemon, I would gain a good thrashing for my efforts. But at least you can be promised obedience if you give an order or make a demand of one of the others in the ayre. Just be prepared to be punished for it later. Revenge is a constant here. That’s why a lot of us just go about existence doing nothing. Stay out of my way, I’ll stay out of yours.
The ayre has been called by many names: the Underworld, the Other Realm, and Demonhome, to name a few. There are some accounts of the realm that claim there is no substance to the place itself or its denizens. That is a lie. The ayre exists as we would have it exist. Around each daemon is a sort of bubble, personal space if you will, that conforms to the tastes of the daemon. Things can get interesting when bubbles overlap. Of course, my own personal bubble is the best place in the whole of the Daemonayre.
A loud stream bubbles its way through a forest of birches. The ground is covered with red moss and fallen leaves. Not a single one remains on the trees. The ground is the sea of color: sienna, bronze, gold, orange-red. The occasional beam of sunlight filters through the bare branches, illuminating the leaves until they sparkle like precious gems. The waters of the stream reflect the light, sending wavering rivers onto the bark of the trees, bark that shimmers brighter than polished jewelry. Color bends, blends, and flows into itself on the tree trunks, metallic and without pattern. There is peace in my bubble, my bit of the Daemonayre, and there is noise and life that waits to live again.
There is little sense of time in my realm or in any realm. Even so, I could pinpoint the exact moment that light became solid, fell subject to gravity, and dropped a shining star on top of my head. I searched for it for a time interminable, but eventually I decided the fallen star had reverted to non-matter or been incorporated into the being of my bubble, into the flow of the Daemonayre as a whole. Still, the entire event was like nothing I’d ever heard of. I decided to tell another of the daemons about the star.
I was fortunate enough to come across Pensas first. Our bubbles melded into a tree-covered mountainside, autumn leaves on the ground and spring leaves on the trees. His horned form greeted me with crooked grin. “And to what do I owe this pleasure, Pocayam?”
“A star fell from the sky and hit my head. I fear the Daemonayre is coming apart.” To be honest, I don’t know exactly when I decided that the falling star meant that the whole of the ayre was collapsing, but what other conclusion could be made? Nothing like this had ever happened before.
Pensas didn’t need any convincing. He agreed with me at that moment that this was a situation that required immediate attention. Surely another daemon somewhere had heard of or experienced the same thing, or at least knew how to keep the ayre from collapsing around us. Bubbles combined, we searched.
When Bahati’s personal space sank into ours, the mountainside, with all its trees and leaves, sweltered. Sweat broke out all over me, and I could see it glistening on Pensas, as well. Droplets fell from his horns. Bahati was more than at home in the heat, but he tiptoed onto the blanket of damp leaves as we approached one another. What was most comfortable for one of us was foreign to another. There was so much wondrous variety in the ayre, you couldn’t see it all in a hundred years. Even knowing that there was so much to experience, even with the curiosity of what else there was out there, I rarely left the comfort of my bubble. Everyone else’s was just too strange.
“What is the meaning of this intrusion,” Bahati demanded. Several pairs of glittering eyes inspected Pensas and me, moving back and forth like a beetle scurrying between troves of food, trying to decide which to devour first. Bahati was a little terrifying, to be honest, all scales and dry skin, spikes and long pink tongue. He was rumored to be full of poison.
“The Daemonayre is collapsing,” Pensas burst. I immediately followed by telling Bahati about the star slamming into my head. All his eyes went wide, and he led the way to tell another daemon.
Solvihani’s presence changed the sky of our collective bubble to black. Clouds roiled and churned upon themselves, painting the air above us in a thousand shades of pitch, each different from the last, each the same as the next. Tail flicking, Solvihani sniffed at us, taking in our scents of sweat and fear. She said nothing, her expression speaking the question.
“We must find someone to help,” Bahati began.
Pensas interrupted with, “The Daemonayre is collapsing!”
I explained about the inexplicably descended star and its abrupt impact with my scalp. Solvihani’s tail whipped around and caught me and my companions up into a bundle. We were pulled forward toward her gaping maw. Foul breath washed over me. “I always feared the ayre would one day fall into itself. I would see how you intend to stop it.”
I didn’t want to have anything to do with the next daemon we came upon, but I was no longer the only one to have a say. The others pulled and pushed me forward until our space changed again. Xabburtska had such a strong personality that she completely overtook the combined personal space of myself, Pensas, Bahati, and Solvihani. Bare images of my gurgling stream, leafy trees, and the mountainside were all that remained of my perfect bubble. I was still scorched by the heat spilling from the cloudy black sky, but now the blackness overtook everything. Xabburtska existed in nothingness, or near enough to make others believe she did. An invisible source of light illuminated us all, as if we were spotlight on a dim stage, but there were no pools of light around our feet. I could see the others, shining as if at noon, but everything else was clad in midnight. A fiery glare took in each of us in turn, those flaming eyes the only bit of her we could make out.
Wanting to get this over with, I let the words tumble out of me so I could finish and get out of her presence as soon as daemonically possible. She would most likely dismiss us all as fools. I wouldn’t have minded the label of fool at this point.
“I know one who must hear of this,” her voice snarled quietly from within the darkness. “Follow.” It was s direct order, a command with no hint of “please” or “if you will”. It was imperative and addressed to us all. The others and I were compelled to trail after her, taking steps in bleak surroundings that consumed us all. I couldn’t even feel ground passing by under my feet. I walked, and it seemed I covered no ground at all.
We scarcely moved, trailing behind Xabburtska as she led us to someone or something unknown. I’ve traipsed all over the Daemonayre, but I got the sense of being somehow out of place, as if we’d crossed a border of time and being-ness. My other companions plainly shared my unease. But deep within, in the very essence of my self, I knew I was still within my home. I could change my bubble at will if I were not overwhelmed by my proximity to Xabburtska. Most unnerving was my inability to hear my stream, to hear life. The nothing chewed at me, and I longed for me-ness again. Let this terrifying question find its answer, let me return to solitude and my forest. I regretted making a fuss of this falling star to Pensas now. Why had I not just left it all alone? Why hadn’t I forgotten everything when I couldn’t find the star?
Our journey came to an end so abrupt that I slammed into the back of Solvihani. Our bubble had transformed once again, even Xabburtska’s contribution paling in the presence of whomever she’d brought us to. Flames leapt up from all around, consuming the shaded remains of the trees, turning my washed-out stream to steam, melting the rock of the mountain. Tongues of fire licked the roiling clouds, burning them away. Sulfur assaulted my nostrils, making me gag. Somewhere in this, I knew another frighteningly powerful daemon resided. In this presence, it was all too easy to forget that in some way, I had an advantage over it. Somewhere in me, I had the power to at least match whoever invaded my forest. But I felt like little more than prey, a barnyard fowl meant to be kept alive and used at best, slaughtered at worst.
From deep within the darkness, I could hear low, raspy breathing. Breathing? Daemons do not breathe. Air is not part of the being-ness of the ayre. Even if we were to move to the Mortalayre, breathing would be optional only. Why did this newcomer choose to breathe here?
A pinpoint of light blossomed in front of my eyes. It grew slowly, and in it I recognized the exact star that had fallen upon me, sparkled through my vision, and disappeared through my bubble.
The voice of the star invaded my head as if injected by a needle. There were no words; a creature of this power needed no words. This was not a daemon. The creature that lived within this star, born of this star, would be master of the Daemonayre, whether he had my support or not. It was the natural order of things to follow this creature. He sent an image of a more wondrous world than the Daemonayre, even more lush and living than the Mortalayre. He’d come from the Divinayre, and been cast out, sent to where his reach could not extend back to his origins. But he would return and take over again. But first, the Mortalayre. The creatures that lived in the Mortalayre had a power unlike anything in the Daemonayre or the Divinayre, and by tapping into that power, he could ascend. And he would take us with him.
I felt the tensile border of my bubble snap and whoosh out around me. I knew the others’ personal space had been invaded and shattered by this newcomer, our new king, the rightful conqueror and ruler of the Daemonayre and those who lived within. I would gladly help him overtake the Mortalayre and take a place beside him as conqueror of the Divinayre. I knelt and awaited my king to name himself. The others knelt in worship beside me, but Xabburtska stood, receiving an approving pat from the new king.
I would call my king by many names as unticking time moved on. The immortal one approved of all names I thought of for him. All and none were his. But it was one that I first devised that would stay with him, one that I chose that earned me a special place beneath his right hand.
The Fallen Star. Lucifer.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Writing What You Don't Know Yet

It happens to all of us: we get to a point in a story where we don't know what comes next. A new character comes in, and you have no idea what her name is or what she looks like. Or your epic fantasy hero finally reaches the city he's been trying to get to, but you can't descibe the palace yet because it's not clear in your head. Or your ancient scribe is ready to go off on a dissertation about some subject, but you haven't researched that subject yet to write that dissertation monologue. Or your prince is being crowned king, and he's inheriting a list of titles but you don't know the titles. There are all kinds of little details that can hang you up while you're writing, and it'll take an hour of thinking, or two hours of research, or longer to get past that hiccup.

I hate it when that happens.

This is my way of handling when I come across one of those snags.

In writing the first book of The Blood of Princes trilogy (I'm still working on the trilogy, by the way, so don't go looking for it yet) the High Prince did indeed get crowned King. During the oppulent ceremony, he was announced to the kingdom with a list of titles. Those royals do love their titles, and he needed some doozies. But I'm not a royal. I had a little bit of a problem.

I had no idea what titles he'd gained. It had never been part of my world-building. By the time I got to that part, I was on a roll with the writing. I was in the middle of NaNoWriMo (yet again, yes- this was NaNo 2012) and that kind of snag can really get in the way when you're trying to hit that word count. But I wasn't about to let that snag get me. So what did I do? I wrote as much of the announcement as I could, and when it came time for the titles to be listed, I wrote this:


That's all. Hours of delay solved in one word and a couple brackets. New character that I can't think of a name for? No problem. You'll see a bunch of [NAME- male 1] and [NAME 1]. Why the 1? Because if I have another character without a name, it'll be easier to tell which one needs to fill that bracket when the time comes.

Some other ones I have used in the past include [MAKE UP SOME FAMILY HISTORY], [DESCRIPTION], and [YOU SERIOUSLY STILL HAVEN'T NAMED THIS GUY YET?].

Hey, sometimes you just have to yell at yourself.

Yes, I tend to leave them in all caps. There's a reason. It helps set it apart from the prose around it. It draws attention. There have been times when, in reviewing what I already wrote, my eye will be drawn to those caps, and BOOM! the answer pops in my head. Or maybe I'll be in the mood to pop in that city or palace description or whatever. But normally, once a bracket is on the page, I let it go. Sure, sometimes later I'll be in the shower and that new character's name will come to me. Then, it's easy to do a find, set it to match case, and boom, I can change [NAME] into Brody, or whatever the character's name is. I usually don't do a replace all. To prevent typos, I'll go and change them all myself so I can be sure I'm changing the right ones.

I finished the first draft of the first Blood of Princes book, and it's pretty much ready to go to beta readers for its first edit. Except there are brackets. Don't want the readers seeing those. So when I get my editing cap on, what do I do?

That's right: find [. And one by one, I tackle the brackets when I'm not trying to just get words on the page. When I have the time to sit and think about the content of the bracket, there it is. I don't use brackets for anything else in my writing, so I know that what I find are edits I couldn't make on the fly.

Once the processor can't find anymore brackets, I know I'm done.

Have another method for this sort of thing? I'd love to hear it.