Sep 26, 2012

More Discoveries (Pinterest, mostly.)

Hello! Yet another lazy day where it's time for a blog post but I have next to nothing to say. ;) You know what this means - PICTURES!

So let me say right now that I am addicted to Pinterest. It's a goldmine of distraction and inspiration at the same time. Most of my pinboards are writing-related and those of them that aren't are writing-related too. Seriously. It's. Amazing. And if you're subscribed to the right pinners, you get some pretty incredible stuff. Breakthroughs and ideas and revelations! (Wait, isn't that sort of the same thing as a breakthrough?)

My pinterest profile is here: E's Pinterest

I'm going to start off with some pretty random images. I've recently found out that I have a "thing" for freckles and another "thing" for Asian people. (They just so gorgeous!) This picture fits both. Plus, RED HAIR!!
This I want to know what's happening. The face paint/makeup and the rings wake up that shy little worldbuilder in me - is she part of a fantasy culture, and if so, which one? And who did she just kill?

This guy is just Scottish all over. Given that I'm in the middle of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander, (not recommended for anyone who doesn't have an incredible mom like mine to sanitize it for them, by the way) it's not surprising that this pic would catch my fancy. I mean, the hat! And he looks so determined.

I love pictures that encapsulate a feeling or a scene. This one is perfect - I can just see the children of the herbalist warming their feet at her fire, or the refugees who have warm toes and dry socks for the first time in weeks.

Here's another picture with a scene-in-the-making right under it. The shapes of the people and weapons are just vague enough for me to mentally make them into anything I want, and there's tension already there too - in the silhouette of the sword against the doorway, in the bowed head of the person at the bar. Something's going to happen - I can feel it.

These intriguing dudes are probably from the movie Tristan and Isolde, which taints my perception of them a little since I've seen the movie, but they're still a great reference. I love that their clothes are well-made and totally fantasy, but not extravagant as many fantasy clothes seem to tend to be. In fact, they look almost morose. Like something Aaron would wear on a good day.

Lastly: Go on your own picture hunt! This website has been a wonderful source of fantasy-ish pictures. It's all in German, yes, but fortunately the pictures aren't. Oh, if I could just learn German and GO there... click "Galerie" for the pictures. ;)

Signing out for now:

Aug 26, 2012

Describing People

A common problem I see in novels is the inability to describe a character so that I can envision them. It's easy enough to imagine and describe a tall, rugged Ranger or a tiny glowing pixie, but when up against the complexities of real people, many authors fall short. This is a collection of tips and tricks I've picked up and learned about describing characters.

I once heard verbs described as the engines that drive a story, and this is very true. You have to be choosy when using verbs to describe a person, however. A string of whimsical verbs used to describe a serious character will only make him seem whimsical himself. I like to call verbs in description active description. Rather than using verbs to convey motion and actions, I use verbs to describe things that are usually still. Use carefully chosen verbs to describe physical attributes of the character; rather than "her hair was short" use "her hair swung jauntily at her cheekbones".
Swirling tattoos cover his arms, climbing up from the collar of his shirt to twist around his throat, the ends hidden by his tousled dark hair. I try not to look at him. He could make me happy. ~Bethany Griffin, Masque of the Red Death

Selective Adjectives and Adverbs

There's so much controversy over adjectives. You'd think this would be a simple topic, but the fact is, deciding how much of something is beneficial is almost never simple. You have to factor in the pros, the cons, the way beginners do it, the way the experts do it, and on top of all this is a hearty dollop of conviction that may or may not be misplaced. My personal opinion is that adjectives and adverbs are there to be used. Use them well and sparingly, but use them. I probably use far too many, but I'm still not sure how much that weakens my writing. Adjectives in a character description are almost unavoidable. Still, select them in the same way you would select verbs - spend enough time finding the right ones so that the description is tailored to the character. Another something I've learned is that you should almost never go with the first word that comes to mind. Your brain is lazy, and I can almost guarantee you that with a good thesaurus and a little time, you can find something better.

She's slight and tawny and smooth-skinned, like a nut. An inverted pyramid of hat frames a face effervescent with delight and her tattooed hands cradle a bit of green pulled from the damp Andean soil. Her simple clothes and mud-smudged body all cry I am plain, I am poor but that bright face cries otherwise. ~Me, written just now for this post

Word Choice
Think carefully about the impression you want to convey about the character you're describing. This goes hand in hand with Point of View or POV. Figure out how the POV character talks and thinks and their attitude toward the person being described. For instance, if they're angry at the person or something they're associated with, their view is going to be skewed. Then choose your words accordingly. Also, think about the POV character's level of education and his social class. This should be important in any part of a novel, but it features prominently in the way your POV charrie describes others. My advice for this: get yourself in character (wear a skirt or clutch a dagger if you must) and read it out loud, in your character's voice. Alone, of course.


Think about the shyest, quietest, sweetest person you've ever met. Think about how they move, how they hold themselves. Now think about another shy, quiet person, but this time they're grumpy and a bit rude. I bet they're much different in the way they walk, their posture, their facial expressions. Even within stereotypes, individual quirks can affect movement, however slightly. Incorporating these subtleties can give insight early on into your character's mood and personality. In the below example, even though there's a lot of motion around Corlath, the motions he makes himself hint that he is a king and will be treated like one.

Harry turned around in time to see the heavy door thrown violently open, so that its hinges protested; and out strode a man dressed in loose white robes, with a scarlet sash around his waist. Several more figures darted out in his wake, and collected around him where he paused on the verandah. He was the axis of a nervous wheel, moving his head slowly to examine the lesser people who turned around him and squeaked at him without daring to come too near...But there was a quivering in the air around him, like the heat haze over the desert, shed from his white sleeves, cast off by the shadows of his scarlet sash. Those who stood near him looked small and pale and vague, while this man was so bright he hurt the eyes.~Robin McKinley, The Blue Sword

I think it's happened to all of us - you're reading along, and the author is describing a character. You're nodding, getting it so far, and then the author sticks a pair of lush sideburns on the skinny glasses-wearing nerd. What? you're thinking. Wasn't expecting that. While I think we all know the importance of avoiding stereotypes and cliches, stepping out of them too far can get you a confused blink or two or even than infamous "O.o" look. This also tends to happen with settings in fantasy novels, especially. They just get too weird to be believable, and ever after my image of the place or person is ruined. So when you think you've come up with an interesting twist to add to your barrel-shaped tavern owner or your slip of a violet-eyed girl, run it past some fellow writers too, and see if you get "that look".

Draw attention to the surroundings to reveal character physically by asking "How does the character fit in? How do they stand out?" Using contrast and unity, you can draw very handy parallels between the character and the people around them, the character and the setting, or the character and the emotional atmosphere. For instance, if you set your scene in a room full of throbbing music, flailing bodies, sparkling clothes and spinning light and you throw in a man in a black cloak lurking in the corner, you have an instant image and instant intrigue concerning the character and what he's doing there. Now imagine a fisherman, worn and leathery, his hair bleached by the sun and his clothes full of holes, hauling in rope on a wind-weathered dock. This character fits where he is. He's been shaped by his environment, and that makes a statement. If we can imagine the environment the character fits in, we can see the character. Can you guess which the below example is - contrast or unity?

We got to the dirt road, and there, fifty yards back toward the railroad and headed toward us, was a stalled automobile. While we were looking at it, a chunky little man in a neat, but dust-covered brown suit and a derby hat with the top dented in, crawled out from under it, took one look at us, and began yelling and waving his arms frantically.~Leonard K. Smith, Fourteen-Mile Hike


Metaphors and similes. We all know and love 'em. Similes are my favorites, but I'm going to lump them all together and call them "comparisons" for now. This can tie in to surroundings if you compare the character to items from the setting. For instance, if you have a pale-as-death sorceress in a meadow full of daisies, you could compare her face to the flowers. They're about as different as can be, but it's a strong image because of that. That said, please be careful with your metaphors. Create them with originality and sensibility in mind. Visit The Bookshelf Muse and browse through the colors, textures, and shapes thesauri for some metaphor examples. In the excerpt below, the book is largely about the sea, so the comparison of Kir's face to pearl and foam is yet another touch of that sea.

A ring on his finger held a stone that trembled with the same twilight shadows in his eyes. His brows were dark, slightly slanted over his eyes. The bones of his face made hollows and shadows that seemed, in spite of the hearty sunlight, as pale as pearl, as pale as foam. ~Patricia McKillip, The Changeling Sea

Gradual Reveal
This is a subtle and beautiful way to introduce a character without dumping a bucket of description on the reader. I find that a combination of this and other techniques often works best. Work in details gradually, through dialogue, actions, and word choice (especially word choice, since the fewer words you have, the more they have to count.) In the example below, no description is given of Grandpa Beebe, but I bet by the end of the excerpt you have a pretty clear picture of what he looks like.

Grandpa Beebe squinted at the sun. "It's nigh onto noontide," he said, "and your Grandma is having sixteen head to dinner tomorrow. We got to get back home to Chincoteague right smart quick! I promised to kill some turkeys for her." He sighed heavily. "Seems as if the devil is allus sittin' cross-legged of me."
But he made no move to go. Instead, he squatted down on the beach, muttering, "Don't see why she's got to parboil 'em today." Then he took off his boots and socks and dug his toes in the sand, like fiddler crabs scuttling for home.~Marguerite Henry, Misty of Chincoteague

So tell me. What techniques have you found and learned to introduce your characters?

Jul 4, 2012

Music Oddities

I've had this impression for so long that it's taken hold of me and I can't let it go until I share it with somebody. Maybe not even then.

You know when you've found it
There's something I've learned
'Cause you feel it
When they take it away
hey, hey, hey

Something unusual, something strange
Come from nothing at all
But I'm not a miracle
And you're not a saint
Just another soldier
On the road to nowhere

My mom listens to some pretty weird music, it's true. She's discovering her true tastes now that she has children. *clears throat* I mean...yeah. Well, I've been present for most of it. She discovered Damien Rice a while ago and I hated it. And then strongly disliked it. And know how it goes. It grew on me.

But this's so sad, and it's so passionate. And somehow, it gives me an impression of old things. Weathered leather and creaking doors and tradition and sad, dusty, falling-in farmhouses.

And so it is
Just like you said it would be
Life goes easy on me
Most of the time
And so it is
The shorter story
No love, no glory
No hero in her sky

I'm not sure if any of my writing would fit into a setting like this, but I'm almost desperate enough to write to this music that I think I might try.

There's always time
On my mind
So pass me by, I'll be fine
Just give me time
Older gents sit on the fence
With their cap in hand
Looking grand
They watch their city change

So what do you think? Am I crazy, or am I?

Interview with Fairivel, Part 4

Part one here.
Part two here.
Part three here.

“Were you ever in love with anyone before Varia?”
He considers a moment, then shakes his head. “I never had many friends. I thought I loved a girl when I was thirteen, but I never really knew until I met Varia.”
I look at the question this leads in to, one from Nathanael, and wince. I forgot to explain to everyone that he didn’t know his wife was a sorceress. He’d have to message me that question later, if he wanted it answered.
Fairivel is staring at me. “Do you have any more?”
“Um, yes.” I fidget, hoping, hoping, hoping he didn’t hear me. “Nathanael asks if you have ever wondered if your son had contact with Varia secretly?”
“Oh, I know he has. Though I don’t know why she would come back just to see him.”
I know why. I ask another question to keep from thinking about it. “Emily asks if you’ve ever tried to reconcile with your son.”
“After he left? No. I can’t just go gallivanting off when I have a country to run.”
Touched a sore spot there, Emily. “Amanda asks why your son doesn’t respect you.”
Fairivel slaps his hands on the table. “I don’t know. I just don’t. Are you quite finished with questions about my wife and son? Because I have a meeting to go to.”
“I only have a few more.” I begin to get nervous until I realize that he can’t possibly go anywhere unless I let him. "Sandra/Charis asks what kind of books you like to read. History, nonfiction, poems, romance? Or a little of everything?" I narrow my eyes at him. "This is a good friend of mine, so be nice."
"Romance," he begins, his tone echoing my own views on the subject, "is a waste of time. I prefer history and nonfiction with the occasional poem, but usually only historical poems. Fiction itself isn't very ... productive."
"Which is why you exist only in fiction. If I thought the same as you, then you wouldn't exist."
"That's different."
"So you say. Nathanael asks if you’ve had any military training, and if you have, what the story is behind that.”
Fairivel squints up at the ceiling again. “Not military training, exactly. I know how to fight and I theoretically know how to lead an army, though I’ve never brought one to field. I learned that because any prince is expected to know it.”
“This is from Amanda: how do you feel about your brother running away?” Another how do you feel question. Oh joy.
“We never got along very well,” Fairivel replies, stacking the empty bowls together. I bite into the bread again. A maid comes to take the dishes. “I was always wishing I was the firstborn and he was always wishing he wasn’t. Though he’d never have let me have the privilege. Not willingly. I suppose I’m glad he’s gone. I can only imagine what he’d say about me ruling.” He rolls his eyes.
And I can only imagine what you’d say if you knew he had a country of his own, I wonder smugly, catching the thought and tucking it away before he sees it. I’m getting pretty good at this. Too bad I didn’t figure it out sooner. “Do you wish you knew where he was now?”
“Not a bit.” He fidgets, glancing at the sun and how far it is above the horizon. “I really –”
“Why did Vytorin run away?” I say, unconcerned about his meeting. I’m finally in control of the interview. Maybe I could handle a villain after all.
“No one really knows. Barron Rey had no idea and mother was too upset to try to figure it out. But” – and here his face takes on the air of someone who has had an idea for a long time and has only now found someone to share it with – “I think Barron Rey – father – was trying to make Vytorin into something he wasn’t.”
“Vytorin didn’t want to rule?”
“Not at all. He didn’t care about who ruled, but he did know that it would be hard work and trouble if he did. He was always lazy.”
“Did you want to, or was it forced on you?”
He looks down, forgetting to fidget. “Yes. I wanted Barron Rey to see me rule and see how well I could do it, but I only got to rule after he … after he died.”
“Two more questions,” I say gently, not wanting to watch him remember his father. “Amanda wants to know why you never sing if you love music so much.”
He rubs his chin again and smiles. A wry smile this time, one that does reach his eyes but in an odd, jaded way. “No use embarrassing myself. Listening is plenty.”
“Embarrassing yourself?”
“I’m about as musical as a boghopper.”
“Nah. With that voice of yours –”
He bows his head and takes the compliment graciously. “Thank you. I’ll just listen.”
“Someone told you that you couldn’t sing, did they?” I demand, leaning across the table over my cooling bread.
He makes a meaningful gesture at the notepad. “What is the other question?”
I won’t forget that, and he knows it, but I let it rest for the moment. “The last one is from Emily, and she wants to know what you thought about her accidentally calling you a girl, which she apologizes for.”
Fairivel smirks. “I thought it was funny. I’m not like a lot of kings who are all worried about their honor, so you may put your friend to rest. Although no one had better tell my son.”
“Don’t worry.” I know he takes it to mean that I won’t tell, but of course his son already knows. I cover up a smirk of my own.
“Well,” he says, standing up. “It has been lovely, my girl, but I’m afraid I need to run.”
“So do I.” I look down at the bread and wonder if I could eat all the rest of it in one bite, because I can’t bear to leave it behind.
Fairivel hears me and winks. “Go ahead. I won’t look.” He bows from the waist; I nod back, and he leaves.
I glance down at the bread, at the kitchen staff – all busy – and pick it up, and fold it, and smell it one last time, and stuff it into my mouth.
I walk out of the kitchen, swinging my arms.
Maybe I could take a villain after all.
Maybe. Maybe next time.

Jul 2, 2012

Interview with Fairivel, Part 3

Part one here.
Part two here.

An oven door clangs open in the kitchen, making us both jump; we’ve been so immersed in the interview we’ve forgotten the world outside. More elves are bustling around the kitchen now, tying on their aprons, staring at us with questions in their eyes. Probably wondering why their Lord is talking to a strange girl and why he’s still at breakfast even though it’s an hour past sunrise.
The baking bread smell multiplies tenfold and I perk up, wanting to gobble down the air. It smells that good. Fairivel grins at me, and it’s that genuine smile that doesn’t reach his cool eyes again. “Laon has quite a treat he fixes up when I ask. Mostly on festival days. I imagine he’ll make it for you. It’s not every day we have a visit from our author.”
My heart begins to shrink with guilt because he’s still not upset with me even though I’ve been sitting here for an hour digging up his most painful secrets. I consider the remaining questions. We’re only about halfway through, which makes me cringe, but the rest of them shouldn’t require such long answers. Probably. “Let’s do some more from Emily next. Do you like to read?”

“Of course! You should see my library. You would love it.”
I wonder briefly if his truthful, vulnerable side has retreated for a break. I’ll ask innocent questions until he’s recovered. Surely no one else would be able to get this much out of him. “I have seen it. I designed it. I have a scene there. Remember –” I stop. No, he wouldn’t remember, because here it hasn’t happened yet.
I know he’s waiting to hear what he should remember, but I’m not about to spoil the end of his story for him. “Do you ride? Do you have a favorite horse? What breed and what color?” I glance up. “Girl likes horses.”
“Evidently.” He gives another absent-looking half-smile and for a moment he looks ordinary. “I love riding almost as much as I love swordplay, and my favorite would have to be my light draft mount, Whisper. He’s a red roan and the loudest horse you’ll ever hear.” A chuckle bursts from him. Soon he’s laughing outright. Some of the kitchen staff stare, but then they smile as he slaps his leg and leans over the table. “Whoever named that horse ought to be sold to the pirates! You should hear him when the groom is late with his feed. Wakes me up all the way on the fifth floor some mornings.”
I laugh with him, my voice sounding like a little girl’s giggle next to his hearty chortle. When we stop, he rubs a hand over his face and picks up his teacup. I scan the list. “What’s your favorite ice cream flavor?”
“Oh right.” I hiccup from laughing and press a hand over my mouth. “This is fantasy.” I think of ice cream in a cone, ice cream on pie, ice cream on my little sister’s face. Fairivel’s brow furrows in puzzlement. “A treat made with frozen milk,” I explain. “And even if you don’t know what it is, I know your favorite flavor would be vanilla.”
“If you say so.”
“Would you rather be imprisoned or wander in the desert with just enough food and water to keep you from dying?”
“Odd question.”
“Odd people.”
“I suppose so.” He sips his tea and sets the cup back down on the saucer. I can hear the crumbly sound of Laon slicing the new-baked loaves and my stomach flops over, purring.
“Imprisoned. Prisons you can escape from. And we Fairbrows supposedly sunburn easily.” He flashes a smile, so wide and white and playful that for a moment all I can see is his son’s face, staring out at me. I swallow. “Do you have any other siblings?”
“No, it was just us two. We were probably enough for mother, especially. Barron Rey was always too busy to bother with us. Except when he wanted something.”
Laon interrupts, carrying in a little teacup with some of what Fairivel’s drinking and a gilded saucer holding a steaming slice of fresh bread. He sets them down in front of me and smiles, indigo eyes locking on mine for a moment, dusts his hands on his apron, and leaves. I gape at the food he left me.
It’s a slice of steaming bread, yes, but there’s some kind of creamy, brown-flecked yellow sauce oozing from it. Tiny, paper-thin slices of pink apple adorn the top in a delicate fan and a sprig of mint peeks from the center. I pick it up, my fingers tingling, and bite in.
It’s like a carnival in my mouth.
Fairivel is over there rediscovering his own food, but at my incoherent grunt of admiration he chuckles again. “I told you.”
I still can’t say anything. It’s a tart apple and an impossibly sweet, buttery sauce with the hearty burn of cinnamon. The bread is fluffy and soft but still dense enough to keep the sauce from soaking through onto my fingers.
I find myself not wanting to ask Fairivel any difficult questions ever again.
I pull back, my bite half-chewed, wondering if the treat is enchanted. Fairivel whoops with laughter. “Laon!” he calls into the steamy kitchen. “Elizabeth thinks your bread is magic!”
“Ha!” says the cook.
My face burns as hot as the cinnamon and I put the bread down to consult my list again. “What –” I remember the bite in my mouth and swallow, then begin again. “What does your name mean?”
Fairivel eats a forkful of now-cold steamed vegetables and raises his eyebrows at me.
“Right, yes, I don’t know either. Have you ever broken your own standards?”
“Of course I have. Everyone has.”
I stare down at the bread to keep from having to look at him, wondering how long I can make it last. “Any particular example?”
“No,” he says, and takes another bite.
I know there is, but I don’t have time to force it from him. Besides, that could be an interesting scene. I file it away along with the little tidbit about him swirling the stuff in his cup and begin to think that this interview might be useful after all. “Have you ever done anything off the cuff?” He looks confused and I realize it’s a phrase that’s new to him. “Unusual for you.”
“I…tipped over my brother’s boat once,” he says, almost shyly. I take another bite, letting him know by not being ready to ask another question just yet that I want more of this story. “I think I was fifteen, and we were out boating past the coast. Little things, barely big enough for three people. Vytorin and Barron Rey were sitting in one and mother and I were in another, and I had our oars.” A sly smile seems to catch him unawares. “Mother was in the back seat of our boat and I in the front, but Vytorin and Barron Rey were both in the front of their boat. Unbalanced. It didn’t take much of a push to send them over.” He coughs. “Of course they were both furious.”
“I didn’t know you were a prankster.”
“I’m not. That’s why it was…off the bluff?”
He nods, but I know he doesn’t understand.
“What was your happiest moment?”
“There were several with Varia,” he says, but doesn’t share. I’m relieved. She freaks me out. “I almost won a tournament once. Just a little too slow. On my tenth birthday I got my first practice sword. I would say that would have to be it.”
Go figure. “Would you ever give up the throne if it meant saving someone or something you care about?”
He looks up and an unnerving hardness comes into his eyes. “No.”
“No.” He finishes the last bite of fish slowly, but I know he wants to say more. I nibble on the bread in between.
“There’s too much at stake here to just…give it up. Leave the outcome uncertain. There’s war out in Lalind and I have to protect this country from it. There are too many lives, too much knowledge here to risk. It’s taken us too long to get where we are. No. I wouldn’t give up the throne.”
“I see.” I stare down at the saucer holding my half-eaten slice of bread. It’s white with a thin gold inlay, with eight-pointed stars at four points along the rim.
Fairivel swirls his tea. I wonder how long it would take for all his teacups to get thin at the middle.

Interview with Fairivel, Part 2

Part one here.

I turn back to the notepad to hide my smile. The smell of baking bread begins to infuse the air and I inhale deeply, deciding on a less threatening question. “What about your best attribute?”
I swear he nearly blushes. Without meeting my eyes, he picks up his elegant teacup, swirls whatever’s inside, and sets it down again. I recognize a gesture I can incorporate and file it away. I know he’d love to put up a modest front about this one or laugh it off, but he’s answered all the others truthfully so I don’t think he will.
“Mmm,” he says again. “I would have to say I’m…dependable.” I nod; that’s an understatement. “Did you know everyone said I’d give up the irrigation system for Calrogil after it failed two years in a row? I didn’t.”
“Impressive,” I mutter, unsurprised. It’s in his personality type, right at the top. Of course, you could always interpret that as ‘uncommonly stubborn.’
“That’s my son you’re thinking of,” he chuckles, “not me.”
“Both of you.” I cut him off before he can argue. “Would you rather drown or burn?”
“Drown.” He dips a piece of fish in the sauce. “Faster, less pain.”
Logical as always. “Would you rather take a beating or watch one?”
“Depends on who was being beaten and who was doing the beating.”
“Say…your son and Klista’s head general.” I grin; this is foreshadowing, though he doesn’t know it.
“I’d take it.”
“Even with Varac doing it?”
He nods casually. I don’t figure he thinks this will ever actually happen. Ha.
Fairivel looks up. “What are you grinning at?”
“Nothing.” I clear my throat and glance out the window. The sun is a little higher now, letting me see what is actually outside. The window overlooks the private palace gardens. Pink-blossomed trees spread below us and a path of ivory steppingstones wends through them. A wall made entirely of prisms fractures the sunlight hitting the garden in millions of tiny rainbows. I grin again. There’s a scene there later. “Are you proud of your accomplishments as king?”
He straightens and smiles, leaning back against the cushions. Here’s a question he likes. “I am. Not that there’s been a famine or a war or anything” – yet, I think, and he falters, then goes on – “but I was younger than most when I took the throne. Many thought I’d fail. I’ve enjoyed proving them wrong.”
I’m sure you have. “Is there anything you deeply regret?”
His mouth twists and tightens up in a funny way. I’ll wager I’d disarmed him with a couple of relatively innocent questions, but we have to answer these sometime. “I regret the way my son and I never…connected. I swore I’d never be like my father, but he doesn’t understand everything I’ve done for him and I’m afraid I look worse to him than Barron Rey did to me.” I don’t know why, but the fact that he calls his father by his first name jars me. Fairivel doesn’t seem to notice. “I just want to understand him,” he sighs.
I let out an exasperated puff of air. I know his son better than he does and even I don’t understand him. And, all right, maybe I’m exasperated a little because it’s hard doing this without mentioning names, too. Stupid spoilers. “If you could go back and change that, would you?”
“Yes,” he mumbles, staring out the window. “If I could.”
“Who knows how,” he growls, picking up his teacup again. This time he glares at it as if he wishes it was something stronger than tea and drinks it all. One of the kitchen staff seems to magically appear with a pitcher. I wonder what he would do with the cup if there was nothing to swirl in it. “For nineteen years I tried to figure out how. I don’t know what good going back would do.”
The blonde, freckled maid glances at me, clear gray eyes concerned, as if she’s afraid he’ll get too angry and exile me. She must be new here. Fairivel never loses his temper. He gets annoyed, but he never loses his temper. Well, once. Okay, twice. Almost never. “Is there a single memory you wish you could relive?” I ask as the maid leaves us.
“Are these all questions from this Hannah?” he demands, surprising me. I nod. He swears under his breath. It’s the only time I’ve heard him swear. Hannah must have a knack for stirring up fictional people.
He sighs and pushes his hair back behind his pointed ears. “I think…it would be the one time Varia persuaded me to cancel a meeting. Apparently where she comes from, they hand their children off to nursemaids, but not here, unless there’s a problem with the mother. It was about a week after she gave birth and she was tired and irritable and the baby was restless because it was so warm.” He rests his elbows on the table, turning a spoon between his thumb and finger, his breakfast forgotten. “I was hot and tired too and not in the mood to deal with the barons, so I told her I would come and help. We took turns walking the baby up and down the room so he wouldn’t cry.” He smiles into the bowl of the spoon. “It was almost the only time we were alone together. With our son.”
I’m actually close to crying, feeling the hot, humid night, hearing the baby whimpering in his father’s arms, seeing Varia sitting with her frizzy red hair draped over her shoulder and sweat glistening on her ivory skin, looking wearily up at Fairivel. I never wrote this scene but I think, now that I know it happened, that it might be worth writing.
Fairivel looks up and puts down his spoon. “Elizabeth?”
I sniff and hide behind the notepad. “How do you feel about your son?”
I glance back at him and discover that he has apparently found something of interest on the ceiling to stare at. “You would have to bring that up now.”
“Sorry,” I say, though I’m not.
“Frustrated,” he mumbles. “How does anyone feel who has to deal with my son?”
“Oh, I don’t know. I hear some of the court women are quite pleased with him.”
“Of course they are.” His expression goes bland, erasing the glint of softness I thought I saw a moment ago. “Of course they are.”
“How do you feel about your father?” He frowns at me again, and I shrug. “Might as well get these over with.” You’d think my characters would be used to pain by now.
“You never really get used to it. Especially when someone is poking around pasts that should stay buried.”
I rub my mouth but don’t look away, demanding by my very silence that he answer. I thought he might be more businesslike and evasive, trying to dodge my questions, but apparently his truthful side comes out around his author. Imagine that. Hannah is going to owe me.
“Distant,” he finally says. “He was distant. And strict.”
“I didn’t ask what he was like, I asked how you feel about him.” Man needs to get in touch with his feelings, I muse, keeping my lips as straight as I can.
“All right, all right.” He taps the edge of a bowl with his perfectly cut fingernail. “It’s one of the few things I’m still angry about.”
“That and your son.”
“Yes, yes,” he sighs, and I wonder if I might be reaching the edge of his patience. “I tried so hard to impress him, and all he wanted was for Vytorin to do this and Vytorin to succeed at that, because Vytorin was going to rule someday. No one cared about the second son.” He huffs. “That didn’t even change after Vytorin left. I do everything on my own and I always have. I educated myself to take the throne, because I sure as Elchion’s bones didn’t have any help from mother and father.”
No wonder he’s lonely.
“I heard that.”
“Forget it.” I flip a page. That bread is starting to smell really, really good. I’ll have such an appetite worked up from all the emotional hassle I could probably eat a whole loaf. Somehow I don’t think Fairivel would care. Much. “Are you skilled in any weapons?”
“Sword,” he says without hesitation. “I can shoot, but I don’t like it as much.” He smiles a genuine smile at the thought of swordplay. That’s in his personality type too. Athletic and wholesome, the website said. Spends free time with friends pursuing some activity or hobby – probably athletic or sports-oriented. Sure enough. At least football hasn’t been invented in Laecla.
“How do you gain respect?” Another question he’ll probably like. “Fear, threats, strong leadership –”
“The way any sensible person would,” he interrupts. He doesn’t sound offended – he’s far too polite for that – but I can tell he is. “Strong leadership is the only way to get dependable support. Inspiring fear and dispensing threats is like scattering the embers in the grass instead of dousing them. You only get fires all over the place.”
“I’m sure you could talk about that all day,” I say, too dryly. His eyes narrow.
He’ll never willingly do anything for me again, I’m sure of it. I’m ruining one of my most cooperative characters. I hope the League likes the interview, because if they don’t, I’m going to have to completely redo Fairivel. “If you were trapped on an island with Melgred, Caryn, Judas, and Vosh, what do you suppose would happen? Who would die first? Who would be the last one standing?”
“Michelle’s Valentine, I think. I can’t keep the nicknames straight.”
“Oh, that one.” Must remind him of his son. I try to squash the thought.
He taps his chin. “Caryn seems intelligent enough. I would try to ally myself with her. Melgred would get annoyed with and kill Judas, and maybe Judas would take Melgred down with him. If not, Melgred would come for the rest of us. Valentine would probably try to talk Melgred out of his plan, and when that didn’t work Melgred would probably kill him.”
“And you?”
“I’d stay alive as long as possible by negotiating.”
“And that is different from Valentine’s approach how?”
“Valentine has no tact,” Fairivel says in irritation.
“Uh-huh. Who would be the last one standing?”
“Caryn or Melgred. Judas and Valentine are too unpredictable.”
“And you?”
“I don’t like killing.”
“Ah.” I run my finger along the notepad. “We have four questions left from Hannah, and I answered one of them inadvertently when I came in.”
“Which one?”
“Your favorite color. Blue.”
“Oh. Good.”
“So… what do you think about puppies?”
“Puppies?” He tilts his head, resting his chin in his hand. “Again with the animal questions.”
“Lots of girls in this…guild.”
“I see. Puppies are about as much use as kittens. Good for entertaining children and getting in the way and not much more until they’re grown.”
“Puppies are therapeutic,” I mumble, moving down to the next question. “If you were locked in a closet, bound hand and foot with jabber jaws, would you survive?”
“So am I bound with the jabber jaws or am I bound with rope and the jabber jaws are in there with me?” He looks bemused. I know he knows the answer, and when I don’t reply he sighs. “I would most certainly survive. Unless they ate me. I’m not one to exaggerate.”
“Last question from Hannah –”
“– thank the Faithful –”
“– and she wants to know what you would do to her if you could get her alone and helpless in a room right now.”
His eyebrows practically jump off the top of his head. “What does she think?”
“I imagine she’s used to having the question answered by villains.”
“Oh.” He shakes his head. “I would try to figure out why she’s so keen on asking such personal questions.”
“I told them to ask personal questions.”

Jul 1, 2012

Interview with Fairivel, Part 1

I timidly push open the door and peer into the well-lit kitchen of white stone. Several elves in navy blue aprons glance up from their stations at the chopping board, the oven, the washbasin, the counter full of flour and bread dough, and back down again as if I belonged here. I slip in and shut the door. It’s too early for the full staff to be out of bed, but someone had to make Fairivel’s breakfast. Trust him to be an early riser.
“His Highness –” I begin, trying not to squint as a wall hung with copper pans reflects the sunrise into my eyes.
“Back there,” says the elf at the chopping board, pulling another handful of vegetables out of a basket and gesturing with his head. His flaming red braid swings. I turn, peering across the ocean of metal and white stone to what appears to be a breakfast nook with a large bay window. A man silhouetted against the glow of the rising sun picks up a cup, swirls whatever’s inside, and sets it down, turning to look back into the kitchen.
Even though I can’t see his face, I know Lord Fairivel is looking at me.
I set my shoulders back and march across what feels like a mile of white flagstones toward the breakfast nook. A cushioned booth encircles the space inside the bay window (not unlike my favorite booth at the Chinese restaurant – also, incidentally, the only one that seats our whole family) and embroidered blue curtains are tied up with tassels around the spotless glass. Fairivel’s favorite color.

I stop looking at the nook and look at him. My heart gives a little leap, half joy, half nervousness. He’s exactly like my mental picture of him and almost exactly like the picture of Anderson Cooper I stole off the internet. Fair oval face and strong jaw; no beard or mustache; sharp nose and well-made, slightly lined mouth; slanted, steely blue eyes. At once a regal face and an intelligent one, a face to make you respect the man behind it.
He blinks. His polite demeanor takes over and he smiles at me. It’s a wide, even smile, deepening the lines around his mouth – genuine, but his eyes are still probing me. “Elizabeth. How nice to see you here. Won’t you sit down?”
I smile back and sit across the table from him, sinking down into the cushions. He’s taller than me, even sitting, with strong shoulders and long-fingered hands like his son’s. I swallow at the thought. He’s nothing like his son, I remind myself. Not nearly as cruel. Or sarcastic. Just as stubborn, though.
Fairivel raises both eyebrows. I cringe as I realize simultaneously that he can hear my thoughts and that I might have offended him.
Of course he can hear my thoughts. He’s my character.
“Have you eaten?” he says gracefully, trying to put me at ease. It won’t work, because I’ve just remembered the notepad full of questions in my pocket. This is going to be a long interview.
I glance down at his half-finished breakfast – beautifully presented honey-smoked fish and steamed vegetables and a sort of dipping paste, each arranged in a small stoneware bowl of its own – pretty, but unappealing for someone used to pancakes and cereal. I begin to regret basing Laeclan cuisine on Japanese. “I’ll pass.”
This time he only smiles with half his mouth, but somehow it seems bigger. Deeper.
I dig the notepad out of my pocket. My introvert tendencies shouldn’t be showing up with someone I know so well, but they are. “I-I suppose you do know I’m here to interview you.”
“With questions from a slew of young people from a scribe guild, yes?”
“Something like that.” I’m glad I caught him at breakfast; he’ll be the most vulnerable when he’s half asleep. If he ever is half asleep. Come to think of it, he strikes me as one of those people who has no option between full on and out cold.
He gives me a slightly exasperated look. “You’re writing this, aren’t you? You could have ‘caught’ me in the middle of the night if you wanted.”
I shrug. Questions in order, or gentler ones first? I glance at the first question, the one from Hannah about his greatest fear, and wince. Gentler ones first.
Fairivel acts as if he hadn’t heard me and flakes off a piece of fish with his fork. Ever the gentleman.
“All right. We’ll start with questions from Connie. Do you like kittens?”
He coughs in his throat and swallows his bite. I know he’s wondering exactly how many questions like this there are. “Kittens?”
“Kittens,” I confirm.
“They’re…sweet, I suppose. Though there’s not much use for them.” He looks up and I see a little bit of his son in him as he asks, “What, you didn’t want a tragic childhood memory about kittens?”
“Not at the moment,” I say, a smile creeping up on me. “I could give you one if you like.”
“All right,” I say quickly, a little embarrassed. “Would you rather sleep in or stay up late?”
“Up late,” he says, without a moment of hesitation. I had a feeling this would be his answer. “You’re wasting daylight with the other option.”
“But you’re more tired if you stay up,” I counter, glad to have found someone who agrees with me about this question, and maybe, just maybe, looking for an answer to my mom when she tells me to go to bed.
“True,” he says, to my disappointment. “You’re sure you don’t want anything to eat?”
“No fish,” I mumble, giving in.
He laughs, and I feel myself blushing. “Laon! Any fresh bread?”
“In a bit, Sire,” calls the cook, plopping the dough back on the counter amid a cloud of flour.
Fairivel nods to me and I grin despite myself. “Sunrise or sunset?”
“It’s the sun either way.”
“Not an answer.”
He skews his lips to one side, thinking. “Sunrise, I suppose. New beginnings and all that.”
I nod, satisfied. “Last question from Connie.” I peek up at him over the top of the notepad and find his bright eyes on me, a couple of silver-blue hairs slipping loose from his braid to drift around his face. “Has anyone ever told you how handsome you are?”
He sits back. I couldn’t catch him off-guard with the kittens, but this…? How strange.
For a minute he just pushes a steamed leaf of what looks like lettuce (but probably isn’t) around his bowl. I suck on my lower lip, uncomfortable because he’s uncomfortable and wondering what it’s like to interview a villain.
“Varia did,” he says gently.
I blink several times. His wife. No wonder. And that’s all the answer I’m likely to get.
The notepad feels suddenly heavy in my hand. I straighten, steeling myself. There are plenty more uncomfortable questions to ask.
I decide this is a good lead-in, so I force out, “Emily wants to know if you ever wonder what happened to her.”
His gaze shifts to the wood grain of the table. “Not often any more. The oddest things make me think of her, though. Anyone with green eyes. Red hair loose in the wind. A certain perfume.” He exhales. “And then when she used to show up out of nowhere, for a day or a month, and then leave, I thought about her then. I don’t know if it was me, or…our child, or if she just didn’t want to be chained down.”
Oh, there’s a lot more to it than that. I force myself not to follow through with that thought. Better not to spoil the third book. “When did you last see her, again?”
“It would be…over twenty years now.”
I start to shake my head until I remember how long elves live. Fairivel in human terms would be at least seventy-four, but elves learn and age slowly.
I’ll bet this is the most he’s told anyone, ever. My chest aches. This isn’t the worst I’ve done to my characters, by far, but meeting the raw pain right in front of you…
Fairivel shoots me a look that means, Are you quite finished with this topic? I am.
I wonder if he’s wishing we’d stayed on the subject of kittens yet.
“No,” he says, and takes another bite of fish.
I frown, wishing he couldn’t pluck information from my head like a bird on a berry bush. “Hannah asks what your greatest fear is.”
He looks at me sideways under lowered eyebrows, knowing why I’m asking this question now. That’s right. I’m opening another old wound. One that’s related to your wife, no less. Two can play this game.
“Loneliness,” he almost snaps.
The table is silent for a moment and I hear Laon open the oven and slide in two pans of bread.
Fairivel sighs. I can’t look at him. “My father died. My brother left. My wife left. My son left. And I’m left here alone.” He snorts. “Except I’m never alone. There are six people in this kitchen and three attendants outside the door and two guards at the end of the hall. Always but never alone. Poetic enough for you?”
“Yeah,” I mutter, kicking myself. I decide I never, ever want to interview a villain. “Greatest weakness?” I blurt, before I can change my mind.
Fairivel glares. “You don’t seem to appreciate the effort I’m going to for you.”
“I appreciate it,” I say, resisting the urge to gulp. This will be research for scenes where he’s angry, I console myself. “Now answer the question.”
“I wish,” he says slowly, as if to someone a little less than all there, “I was better at understanding how people feel. I’m not very good at that, you know.” Yes, I know. “My son, my wife, a couple of the barons I see frequently…I favor logic, and somehow that always ends up offending them.” He casts a pleading glance at me, and I shrug. It’s his personality. I can’t help it that I wrote him this way. Well…I can, but I won’t.

Jun 18, 2012


and I'm back again.

I'm not a hobbit; sorry.

*glances around dusty blog* It's been a while, hasn't it? I'm not even sure if anyone remembers me. Do you?


Well. After several people urging me to post on my blog again, I've finally decided to do so - not because they were asking, mind you. No, it's not that at all. Actually, there's a group on Facebook that I'm scheduled to do a character interview for, and I'm supposed to put the interview here. They ask questions I answer them via the character in a blog post, you know...

Yeah, they're the reason I'm back. Thank (or rant at) them.

Things have changed a lot since I posted here last. There have been some trials and some treasures, and some unexpected friends along the way. I may be a little more humble and a little less naive, though no more patient, I'm afraid. I don't know. Time will tell. We'll see how often I'll be on here, and how long I'll stay.

So while you all are waiting for me to dust things off and write that character interview (sometime after the 25th - sorry), how's about some typography I made for those of you who are still listening to me ramble, hmm?