Tag Archives: Checkmate

News from the Writing Trenches, December Edition

IMG_20151210_194352So, you know how back in September, I said that I was hoping to get Checkmate published by at least Christmas? Uh, yeah. Not gonna happen. I’m sorry…

I don’t actually know what happened there. Where did October go? I mean, I must have done something during that month – other than cook Thanksgiving turkey, and wrap up the last bit of garden, and throw a book birthday party for Seventh Son, and stuff like that. It feels like I’ve been busy non-stop…

And then, of course, after that, NaNoWriMo hit with a vengeance, and I got off on a completely different track. Instead of hanging out with Cat and Guy and Bibby in Ruph, I was off in an as-of-yet-unnamed world, spending time with Lyulf and Kalyana (at least that’s what she’s called right now – that might change, still) and Little Nameless (he won’t talk, so they can’t find out his name) and Old Nameless (who also refuses to give his name), all in pursuit of the mysterious silver bracelet that glows, sometimes. Which was all great fun, but didn’t really help Checkmate along any.

IMG_20151210_194149So, I think I’m now at the point where I can slowly start breathing again, which does bode well for the progress of Checkmate and other writing projects. However, first I have to excavate my household from its NaNo-induced state of dire neglect, and play catch-up on the Christmas-preparations front. Not one cookie has been baked yet this season, barely any presents purchased (never mind hand-made), and as for Christmas cards – what Christmas cards? Ah well, I have two more weeks to do all that. TWO MORE WEEKS? Yikes, that’s not much time at all!

So you’ll excuse me if I sign off now.
Life, the Universe, and, umm, I dunno – where’s my to-do list? [rushes off frantically to check the state of the baking supplies in the cupboard…]

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September News From the Writing Trenches

Just thought I’d update you on what’s going on on the writing front.

For one, Steve & I are in the process of moving house – or rather, office: we’re still in the same house, just two floors down. My Man and I decided that since we both work from home, it’s a little silly to communicate via Googletalk in the course of the day and hardly actually speak to each other, so we’re trying office-sharing. Not sure yet how well it’ll work – I might feel an urgent need for a door to close once in a while (a la “A Room of One’s Own”), especially while cooking up plots and trying to get them down in writing. However, for the time being, it seems to be functional. Here’s Steve with my temporary setup. (Might I draw your attention to my elegant monitor stand? It’s got class. And yes, it would still work, if it were hooked up to a TV. Retro hasn’t got anything on me.)

IMG_20150925_103149And speaking of cooking up plots, you know how I’ve been promising you a third Septimus book for a while now? Yes, that’s still coming. It’s in the works as we speak. In case you hadn’t heard, the title is Checkmate, and it prominently features a chess game – a rather special one, at that. Not to give you any spoilers, but this ain’t your ordinary ‘move-little-people-around-a-checkerboard’ type thing. Oh, sure, that too, but just what happens when those little people are moved…

Now, the thing is that I don’t actually play chess – I barely know how the pieces move. So I turned to the aforesaid Man, and he helped design some chess moves for me that would work. Here’s his game design and the little chess board I used to recreate it, so I could get it all straight in my head to work it into the story:

chess6And now I’m in the process of picking on the little nitty-gritty details and finalizing things – you know, spelling, punctuation, that sort of thing. I’m not going to give you an actual date for when Checkmate is going to make its appearance, because I need more stress like I need a hole in the head. But I do hope to get this book out before Christmas, at least.

Until further notice, that was Life, the Universe, and News From the Writing Trenches. Look out for Checkmate soon!

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Tangles and Darkness

This week in telegram style: RAN ERRANDS STOP DID SOME GARDENING STOP TRIED TO UNTANGLE THE STORYLINES OF CHECKMATE STOP TRIED TO UNTANGLE THE TANGLES I CREATED BY UNTANGLING STOP SIGH STOP (In case you’re wondering what a telegram is, it’s a form of communication from the last century that no longer exists. It was kind of like texting on paper. The world’s last telegram was sent in July 2013 in India.)

With the way I write, events tend to flow from one scene to the next – I write something, and then the next thing is the logical step after that, referring back to a small piece of information that I’ve given in the last chapter, or the one before that. Now, when it comes to implementing some of my most excellent beta readers’ suggestions to the tune of “This really ought to happen sooner/later/not at all/much more often”, I can’t just take one scene and drag and drop it into an earlier part of the story. It would have the effect of taking a chunk of fish net and yanking really hard – the whole weave is destroyed. So I have to carefully un-knot the section and reconnect it elsewhere – this sentence could go here, three chapters previously; while this piece of information could come in there, in the middle of chapter 22; and this bit here could be deleted altogether, but then we better add another paragraph over here. Speaking of chapter 22, that got moved about three times this week – first up behind chapter 16 (so it, and all the intervening chapters, had to be renamed); then both of them back down again to become chapters 22 and 23 (or maybe it was 21 and 22, can’t remember); then back again to position 16 & 17… Oh what a tangled web we weave / when first we practise to, umm, write a story.

IMG_20150515_092758In other news, I’m reading a fascinating book at the moment: At Day’s Close: Night in Times Past, by A. Roger Ekirch. It’s totally shifting my thinking about history, about my fictional world (which is, after all, a pseudo-pre-industrial-European setting), and even about our current sleeping habits and lifestyles. What is so revolutionary about this is the realisation that up until about 150 years ago, nighttime was dark. I know, I know, that’s pretty much a “d’uh” – but is it? Today, we can have daylight brightness whenever we want. Even when we’re gingerly making our way along a dark campground lane towards the outhouse and back to our tent, we know full well that when we go home tomorrow, we’ll be right in 100-Watt-lightbulb range again. And even then, the little flashlight we carry to keep us from tripping over roots on the way is multiple times brighter than any lantern our ancestors had. We only play at being in the dark, but in the past, once nighttime fell, that’s all you had until the sun came up again in the morning. I wonder if the invention of artificial light wasn’t one of the most revolutionary moments of history.

Life, the Universe, Tangles and Darkness. That’s today’s news from the writing and reading trenches.

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Friday Frolics

I’m knee-deep in edits on Checkmate (Septimus book 3), and in consequence I don’t have much to say today (I’m using my words on my book). So I went into the “Unused Pics” folder in my “Blog” files, and found a couple of little irrelevancies to share with you. An old piece of magnetic poetry (ain’t it profound?), and a picture of a rose bud from my garden from last year.

Happy Friday!

magnetic poetry 2013 (4)

Rose (1)

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More Rabbit-Trailing, or: White Cliffs and China Clay

I’m still rabbit-trailing, uh, sorry, researching. And for some reason, I always seem to arrive in the early 19th century again – the time of the Regency, Jane Austen, the Brothers Grimm. What’s with that?

This is how the rabbit trail ran today: I was looking at the creation of porcelain or china (because that’s important for Septimus book #3, Checkmate, which I’m editing at the moment). Unlike regular clay, which you can just dig out of the ground and use more-or-less straight up, the clay body that makes up porcelain is a mixture – the recipe varies depending on what kind of china it is. Bone china, the fine English stuff invented by Josiah Spode in the late 18th century, contains a sizable proportion of actual bone (cow, for the most part, apparently), which is burned and ground up before it gets mixed with the other ingredients. Recipes for china clay were a closely guarded trade secret; in fact, when in 1712 a French Jesuit missionary transmitted the secret of how to make porcelain from China, where he was working, to Europe, it was considered one of the first instances of industrial espionage (however, some German scientists had already figured it out for themselves a couple of years earlier, establishing the porcelain manufacture in Meissen. Science beats spy work – so there!).

Now, that key “other ingredient” in porcelain is kaolin, also called, for obvious reasons, china clay. Kaolin, one of my sources informs me, is really white, and is primarily found in Malaysia and in Cornwall, England. And here’s where today’s rabbit trail comes in: my mind goes, “White deposits of mineral? In Southern England? Wait – the White Cliffs of Dover?” Back to Google I go, to find out what you probably already knew and I remembered just before Google brought it up, namely that the White Cliffs of Dover are made of chalk, not kaolin clay.

Caspar_David_Friedrich's_Chalk_Cliffs_on_RügenAnd then Wikipedia told me that the ones in Dover are by no means the only chalk cliffs around Europe, and that another famous instance of white-cliff-ness occurs on the German Island of Rügen. So, of course, I had to look that up, and remembered and found the famous work by Romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich, “Chalk Cliffs on Rügen”, from 1818.

And there you have it: the research rabbit trail arrived in the second decade of the 19th century. Just look at that dress, and the hairstyle of the lady! In 1818, Persuasion was published – can we picture Anne Elliot in that outfit? If it wasn’t for the two gentleman in the picture obviously being civilians, it might well be showing Captain and Mrs Wentworth on their honeymoon (they took a friend along on the hike to the cliffs, okay? There’s nothing wrong with spending time with friends, even if it is your honeymoon). Or it might be Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, on holiday with their sister Lotte. And when they get back to their Pension (bed-and-breakfast, or inn), they’ll have a lovely Kaffee und Kuchen (afternoon coffee & cake) off a set of Meissen porcelain.

Life, the Universe, and Rabbit Trails from China to Jane Austen. The pleasures of a writer’s life.

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First Draft

So the first draft of Checkmate, Septimus Series Book 3, is in the bag, as of two hours ago. And by first draft, I mean raw, unvarnished, un-spell-checked, NaNoWriMo-ish, plot-hole-riddled, wordy etc etc. (you get the picture). I had frozen in place at the end of NaNo in the middle of a scene, having crossed the 50K-word finish line. Then Christmas happened, aka no writing for about a month, and then a January full of sort of limping along, stuttering my way to the completion of the book. But now it’s done – there is a STORY here.

And I’m exhausted. Writing is tiring, you know? Especially if you write the way I do, which is in spurts – nothing, nothing, nothing, writewritewritewrite, nothing, nothing… I’ve yet to master the fine art (which some of my friends are experts on) of writing so many words a day, come rain, shine, or cloudy-with-a-chance-of-meatballs. I don’t know if there’s anything I can do in little bits every day – I tend to be an all-or-nothing person, sort of a single-track mind. I obsess on whatever-it-is until I’m done, or lose interest and pick up the next subject.

So, draft is finished, dinner has been had, and now I think it’s time for another glass of wine and an episode or two of Once Upon a Time (we’re up to Season 2, Episode 10). And tomorrow, or whenever, it’s back to the drawing board for Checkmate. Re-read, re-write, rinse and repeat.

Life, the Universe, and Finished First Drafts. Checkmate!

IMG_20150208_085655

Sunrise on sea of fog – this morning as I started writing.

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News From the Writing Trenches

Apologies for the infrequency of my postings lately. I’ve been hard at work on the third instalment of the Septimus Series. (Wait, you say – what about the second one? Fear not, stalwart reader, Cat and Mouse has been written quite some time ago, and is with my intrepid editor at this very moment. It should be available for your reading pleasure within a couple of months – I’ll let you know when!)

Steve beta-readingSo, meanwhile, here’s a picture for you of Steve beta-reading yet another one of my stories. He’s not the greatest beta reader, because his comments usually just go along the lines of “There’s not enough bears in here,” or “That bear is not believably written.” However, expert opinion on even just one specialty subject is not unwelcome, either. You can be sure that with his feedback, I’ll at least get the bears in my stories right.

However, speaking of beta readers, I could use a few more. So if you’re up for reading a novel or two and giving me honest feedback on it, give me a shout in the comments or send me a mail to amo@amovitam.ca. That’s especially if you’re an appreciator of fairy tales and/or gentle fantasy (by which I mean that it’s not the epic sword-and-sorcery kind – there’s no swords, and the sorcery is quite mild-mannered; as for eps, well, they generally don’t find enough scope for their epping in my worlds).

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to Catriona – they just hit a cliff hanger which must be resolved in the next chapter.

Life, the Universe, and the Writer’s Life. See you on the other side of the full stop.

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