A STRONG WIZARD WITH UNANSWERED QUESTIONS AND A CHAIN AROUND HER NECK.
Penrys’s past is unknown, but she’s got a better grip on her future: find out where she came from, discover what happened to her, and figure out how the unremovable chain around her neck makes her different from other wizards.
What any of this has to do with the renewal of an ugly war between neighboring countries, half a world away, is just something she’ll have to sort out, along with the rumors of wizards where they don’t belong.
Assuming, of course, that no one removes her as a threat before she can find her footing.
All she wants is a firm foundation for the rest of her life, with a side helping of retribution, and if she has to fix things along the way, well, so be it.
Penrys was crouched on one knee, slamming the rysefeol’s recalcitrant wooden joint with the back of her hand by way of a delicate adjustment, when the sudden transition hit.
“Oh, thennur holi,” she said, under her breath, but the oath that started in her well-lit workroom finished in swaying light and strong shadow. Already off balance, she tumbled on her backside. The soft surface took the sting out of it, and her hands, spread wide to break the fall, told her of carpet and, below that, uneven ground. A gust of wind blew smoke in from outside and the walls fluttered.
A tent, she realized, and a very large one.
She saw the people, then, and froze, stifling a sneeze, but they didn’t seem to have noticed her. No, that’s not it. They aren’t moving at all.
Perhaps no one’s moving but someone’s talking. She tilted her head and pinpointed the voice—it came from something like a mirror suspended from a metal stand in front of the nearest tent wall. She was too close alongside the same wall herself to see anything but the edge of the frame.
The flickering light from the glass-enclosed lanterns on the tables and chests in the tent cast moving shadows on the faces of the people. It gave the illusion of life, distracting her for a moment, and then the words from the voice in the mirror penetrated.
“…a field test like this is always useful for a new weapon. I look forward to greeting you in person, when you arrive for a permanent visit.”
The Chained Adept includes four nations with different cultures and languages, in a full fantasy world (in other words, not just Earth under some other guise).
I may have a shallow linguistics background in a dozen languages (and I do), but that's just not enough to provide suitable linguistic depth for my world. While full-world fantasies are often content to let many conventional earthly things appear unchanged, such as the air we breathe, the horses we ride, the sun in the sky, and the tasty beer, that is more in the nature of not having to explain absolutely every noun in a story to your readers. Those things are thought of as transparent, part of the background against which you set the actual story with its exotic cultures.
That carefully-crafted exotic flavor sours quickly if your characters are named Sam and Susie, or if their language and cultural artifacts are internally inconsistent, or indistinguishable from the usage of their enemies in another country.
We've all read fantasies where the author just threw in a few names from an RPG name generator and called it a day, but I know too much about real languages to stomach that approach and, besides, why stop at personal names? Why not include special terms for the exotic elements of the different cultures, using the appropriate languages, just as we refer to Japanese sushi, or French je ne sais quoi, or Sanskrit karma, all of which describe a cultural item in the native language? Why not make sure all the names in the landscape really are plausibly from the appropriate languages, possibly reflecting a history of border shifting or older populations?
Unless you model your cultures on real-world languages fairly closely, it's easy to find yourself out of your depth in linguistic plausibility.
I'm just finishing up The Chained Adept now, having extricated myself from the swamp of my misconceived 3rd act. I love doing endings. I know exactly where I'm going, what's left to do, and what I need to wrap up.
Some genres, and some authors, too, like to end their books with a bang. Kill the villain, defeat the army, save the alien princess — done!
I find that I prefer a bit of a cool down at the end, a reflection on what's happened, perhaps the foundation of a new vector for the next book. My characters need it, a way to recover from peril and stress. (As one of my friends would say with a wink and a leer, “it's just not the same if you don't get to smoke a cigarette afterward.”)
It's the light my characters work toward, whatever form that takes, whatever the darkness that impedes them. They need some of that light at the end to sustain them.
We're part way through a multi-day marathon of the entire 5 or 6-season run of Game of Thrones on cable, and it's been on non-stop for the last couple of days, downstairs in this small cabin. Periodically I go and get some lunch or dinner, and make sure my husband is still breathing, in front of the TV.
No doubt about it — this is quality programming, and I've seen all the episodes (and read the books). Upstairs at my writing desk, where I can hear snatches of the dialogue, much of the music, and all of the screaming, I'm having no trouble following along with the episodes as they go by.
This is having two effects on my writing…
I am oh-so-glad that George R R Martin is not the god of my personal universe
When novels first became popular in the 16th/17th century, readers felt that they held up a mirror to life. My opinion is: yes, and no.
Yes, in that the characters must emulate real people, or the story they tell has no foundation, no reality, and is nothing but fable, with puppets moved at whim by the author.
No, in that the author is the god of his created world, and it is only a pretense to abdicate that responsibility. It is not fate that kills his characters, or accident, or evil — it is the author's pen, disclaim it how he may. Even when writing a novelized version of historical events, the author cannot help but take sides, offer explanations, create a reality where the events make some sort of fictional sense. It's his story, and he has shaped it as he wants it.
There's one thing a writer of fiction learns early — don't knock a reader out of your story because of words that mean what you want, but that the character would never have used.
If you're writing a work of contemporary fiction, that usually means matching your dialogue to your characters. The impoverished nine-year-old is not likely to use gold-plated words, except perhaps as a comic gesture.
For non-contemporary fiction, the bigger problem is anachronism. When you remember that “khaki” comes out of British imperial rule in India, you are well-advised to avoid it as a descriptive term in a book on the Crusades, or in a fantasy world where neither Britain nor India have ever existed.
When I read books, I find the worst offenders are phrases based on technology that the author forgot is modern, or at least, too modern for the context. “He's never learned to put on the brakes”, “He's just blowing off steam”, “He's a real live wire, isn't he?” — these are a slap in the reader's face in the wrong context.
There you are, writing along at a good clip, and suddenly you find your story buried in mud, all its energy lost.
Now, I'm still rather new at this fiction writing life — a bit shy of my first million words. Aside from working on the craft itself, which I enjoy, much of the challenge is understanding your own psychology well enough to control your productivity.
In my case, there are two issues: what to do when the story grinds to a halt, and how to avoid procrastination. Now, I don't know anyone who can successfully discipline their work habits through will alone (if we had that much will, we'd all eat healthy and exercise regularly, not to mention watch our budgets and clean our houses). Most of us are better off coaxing ourselves into a regular routine and lowering all barriers that might derail it.
Alas, I have an alarm system that slams a wall down in front of my creativity when it senses “wrong path taken” for the story. I push my way forward from that point with great difficulty and at my peril, and I've found it's always a mistake to do so.