2/12/2009

Most of my work last night was on the upcoming Character Clinic.  I’ve written up an introduction and two detailed posts so far, and I only stayed up until midnight to do it!  Needless to say, no Dark & Early writing this morning.

So all I have to share with you are the corrections to yesterday’s snippet and a few more paragraphs continuing that scene.  It’s still not finished, but closer.  I’ll start where I made the first adjustment:  when Sebastian Shah enters the room.  I also tweaked why she’s angry/frustrated with her father’s doubts.

Because of his “expeditions” in the lower realms of the decks, he’d dressed simply.  No wonder the steward ignored him.  In simple brown breeches and outdated–timeless, Sebastian would claim with a sniff, not to mention modest–cutaway coat, he was dressed poorer than the dining room’s servants.

She rose from her chair, and immediately the steward’s attention whipped to her.  She gave him a nod and pulled out the chair beside her.  The man quickly brought her father over, but it was the daughter who seated him.

“May I bring you anything, Lady Shah?”

“I’d like a fresh pot of tea, please, Mr. Whitman.  This one isn’t quite hot enough.”

“My apologies,” he bowed quickly and cleared the table.  “More of the same?”

“Golden tipped assam, yes, and bring my father a cup, please.”

She barely bit back her laughter at the strangled look on Sebastian’s face.  As soon as the steward left, he leaned closer and whispered, “Daughter, the expense!”

“It’s all part of the game, Father.  I’m sure you have numerous notes from the middle deck about the possibility of Britannia going to war.  Zijin won’t be satisfied with merely denying us trade in their ports; they’ll blockade the Colonies as well.  If we lose Sidhu, we lose tea.”

“I know all this, Morghan,” he replied testily and slammed the datapad down onto the table so loudly that the lady several tables over flinched and glared in their direction.  “That still doesn’t excuse wasting an entire pot of the most expensive tea in all the Empire, only to order another!”

She concentrated on keeping her face smooth and her hands steady, calm, and unclenched on the table, but she yearned for the privacy of their suite where she could raise her voice.  Stars, this was his dream, his plan.  She played the game for him.  Either he had little understanding of the intricate play of society’s politics, which she knew to be patently untrue; or sadly, very little faith in her ability to pull this off.

She took several deep, slow breaths before explaining, softly and kindly, which was difficult with her jaws straining to bite back a curse.  “Queen Majel’s favorite tea is golden tipped assam.  The tea is on board as a tribute to her, although no one ever expects her to take a deep space voyage.  Certainly, she’ll never take a trip to the Colonies in person.  Think of the impression my desire to drink this tea makes.  Mr. Whitman is spreading the news in the kitchen even as we speak.  Immediately, it associates us with royalty, and Her Majesty’s Royal Family certainly doesn’t give a damn how much a bloody pot of tea will cost.”

Before her father could respond, the steward returned with a fresh pot of tea, bowing and scraping so low she knew her surmise was correct.  If nothing else, she was firmly cemented as a Person of Importance in this man’s eyes, and so she managed an arrogant, albeit frosty, countenance. 

As soon as they were alone once more, her father spoke so low she had to concentrate to hear him.  “You chose this room deliberately.  You knew the steward served this room.  He’s the highest servant on board and answers only to the Captain, who will certainly hear of the wealthy strangers traveling to Londinium who drink the Queen’s own tea.  The Captain will be invited to the Tower to meet the Queen, and so you’ve ensured she’ll hear of not only our arrival but also the manner in which we traveled.  Well done, Daughter.”

The tension eased in her shoulders and her face thawed enough that gave him a quick flash of a smile.  “I wager we’ll be dining at the Captain’s table tonight.”

Sebastian poured fresh cups and they sipped in companionable silence.  They’d plotted this trip over countless pots of tea and numerous years.  For most of her lifetime, he’d thought of nothing else but returning to his homeland and reclaiming his birthright.  For her, he always claimed, but she had little interest in Society.  She’d much rather have stayed in the Colonies and overseen the harvest.  For all she knew, this tea could have been cultivated on Shaw land.

“Rather drastic measures to gain an introduction to the handsome ambassador, no?”

She arched a brow at her father’s knowing little smile.  The Zijin ambassador had indeed caught her eye last night as he dined at the Captain’s table.  How could he not?  The other gentlemen on board were insipid sheep compared to him.  Glorious in his scarlet tunic embroidered with a fantastic golden dragon, he’d commanded her interest despite his affable yet perfect manners.  His clothing screamed royal hauteur, proclaiming dynasties of tradition that Britannia could only envy, at odds with the easy way in which he’d chatted with everyone he met. 

Tian Zhong had a way of putting even suspicious, fearful strangers at ease.  A most admirable trait in a diplomat who must coerce two equally arrogant and fierce Empires into averting full-scale war.

“I might as well enjoy one last fling before we’re cooped and caged by Londinium rules.”

2/11/2009

Not much to report yesterday and Dark & Early this morning.  I started the new project, Seven Crows, and it’s slow going.  This is a new world and a new genre-blending for me.  It’s part spoof, but part homage to the very genres I love so much.  I want to poke fun at some basic tropes, but also provide a rich, detailed, compelling story.  I want you to snicker at times, but continue reading because of the character’s story.

Needless to say, it’s been challenging, and openings are always difficult.  This one, I deliberately started in a scene that should be basic and standard.  It should make you think the first part of the genre:  Regency.  Yet very quickly, there are little hints that technology is not quite what you’d expect in a true historical Regency setting.  Society in this story has a few little…quirks.  *smirk* 

So here’s a little first draft taste of my “Regency Science Fiction Spoof.”  Does it work for you? 

Watching the ship’s wealthiest guests at tea, Lady Morghan Krowe Shah decided that if her secrets were as obvious, then she and her father had no hope of pulling off this sham. 

A countess well heeled in the latest fashion of peacock silk–which the lady had surely worn to last night’s ball–slipped a ridiculously handsome tip into the virile servant’s trouser pocket.  Surely a feat indeed to lodge those coins in such skin-tight buckskins.  Somber in black and crisp linen, her husband sat beside her, either oblivious or studiously ignoring his wife’s transgressions.  Hardly more than a schoolboy, he possessed the unfortunate features of a very long-faced mule padded with lingering baby fat.

Money, no title, Morghan decided, and too recently leg shackled to comprehend the reality of his predicament.  She hoped the boy’s parents enjoyed their newfound prestige won by accepting the countess’s troth.  Whatever inheritance he’d brought to the marriage bed would soon be gone after her heavy losses at the gaming tables last night.

A winsome young man in impeccable morning dress sat with his chaperone, secluded on the far side of the opulent room.  Although closest to the massive viewscreen which served to draw its guests here instead of the other countless, equally luxurious dining rooms, they utterly ignored the display of endless blackness and whizzing stars through which their ship navigated.  Not even the darkened corner could obscure the young man’s sweaty face and trembling hands as he pulled a sparkling silver chain in an endless loop about his neck. 

An addict, she guessed, likely an opiate given the port from which they’d sailed.  According to her father, many of the fashionable bored gentlemen ended up addicted to laudanum for their “headaches.”

At the other occupied table, an older lady sat glaring pointed daggers at any woman who presumed to prance in front of her table and take note of her exceptionally attractive, robust husband.  Easily twenty years younger, the man couldn’t help but draw feminine attention.  His shoulders filled out his stylish short coat impressively.  When he jumped to his feet and rushed off to fetch some trifle for his lady wife, every female with a pulse noticed his impressive package, rippling thighs, and tight rounded ass stunningly framed in tight faux leather.  No wonder the latest styles had moved away from the longer cutaway coats that concealed a male’s assets.  The poor lady was in for quite a long trip, no matter how fantastically advanced the ship’s engines. 

Last evening at the inaugural ball, the Captain had proclaimed that Her Majesty’s [ship name] would make the jump from Kali Kata’s station on Sidhu to Londinium, Britannia in less than a fortnight.  No one had ever made the voyage from the Colonies in such a short amount of time.  In fact, when the first colonists had sailed to Kali Kata, they’d done so cryogenically asleep.

Even with her hand flattened on the pristine tablecloth, Morghan still couldn’t feel the rumble of the engines.  It would be a smooth trip indeed.  She took a delicate white china cup from the silver tray, poured a steaming cup, and took a measured sip, breathing deeply of the leaves’ smoky rich aroma.  Technology could not improve upon a fine cup of tea, no matter how hard and long the Empire’s greatest scientists labored to program the replicators. 

Surveying the room, she saw her father enter.  Sebastian Shah waited at the door for the steward to notice his presence, tapping his fingers impatiently against his hip while he scanned his datapad.  Inwardly, she groaned.  He’d talk incessantly about all his findings, from everything to how many crew manned the ship to how much the lowest berth had been sold to what the cooks and maids had gossiped about in the kitchens.

She rose from her chair, and immediately the steward’s attention whipped to her.  She gave him a nod and pulled out the chair beside her.  The man quickly brought her father over, but it was the daughter who seated him.

“May I bring you anything, Lady Shah?”

“I’d like a fresh pot of tea, please, Mr. Whitman.  This one isn’t quite hot enough.”

“My apologies,” he bowed quickly and cleared the table.  “More of the same?”

“Golden tipped assam, yes, and bring my father a cup, please.”

She barely bit back her laughter at the strangled look on Sebastian’s face.  As soon as the steward left, he leaned closer and whispered, “Daughter, the expense!”

“It’s all part of the game, Father.  I’m sure you have numerous notes from the middle deck about the possibility of Britannia going to war.  Zijin won’t be satisfied with merely denying us trade in their ports; they’ll blockade the Colonies as well.  If we lose Sidhu, we lose tea.”

“I know all this, Morghan,” he replied testily and slammed the datapad down onto the table so loudly that the lady several tables over flinched and glared in their direction.  “That still doesn’t excuse wasting an entire pot of the most expensive tea in all the Empire, only to order another!”

She concentrated on keeping her face smooth and her hands steady, calm, and unclenched on the table, but she yearned for the privacy of their suite where she could raise her voice.  Stars, this was his dream, his plan.  She played the game for him.  Yet he evidently had little understanding of the intricate play of society’s politics and sadly, very little faith in her ability to pull this off.

She took several deep, slow breaths before explaining, softly and kindly, which was difficult with her jaws straining to bite back a curse.  “Queen Majel’s favorite tea is golden tipped assam.  The tea is on board as a tribute to her, although no one ever expects her to take a deep space voyage.  Certainly, she’ll never take a trip to the Colonies in person.  Think of the impression my desire to drink this tea makes.  Mr. Whitman is spreading the news in the kitchen even as we speak.  Immediately, it associates us with royalty, and Her Majesty’s Royal Family certainly doesn’t give a damn how much a bloody pot of tea will cost.”

Before her father could respond, the steward returned with a fresh pot of tea, bowing and scraping so low she knew her surmise was correct.  If nothing else, she was firmly cemented as a Person of Importance in this man’s eyes. 

As soon as they were alone once more, her father spoke so low she had to concentrate to hear him.  “You chose this room deliberately.  You knew the steward served this room.  He’s the highest servant on board and answers only to the Captain, who will certainly hear of the wealthy strangers traveling to Londinium who drink the Queen’s own tea.  The Captain will be invited to the Tower to meet the Queen, and so you’ve ensured she’ll hear of not only our arrival but also the manner in which we traveled.  Well done, Daughter.”

02/02/2009

By word count alone, I ended up negative today in NSR.  I wrote the next new section in Quinn’s POV — braving Melville to do so — and then axed the only section in Dr. Charles Merritt’s POV in the second major draft, which was longer.  I also did some shuffling around of character placement.  A character needed to die a bit earlier than I planned.  Good work, even if the word count doesn’t reflect it.

Then tonight my Amazon order arrived containing The Complete I Ching.  I’d bought this book as research for my hero in 7Crows, and whoa, it’s so interesting!  I’ve been trying to plot it out, but couldn’t seem to get the pieces to fall into the right order in my mind.  So I decided to play out a toss of the coins and see if I could get a plot.  I got so many good ideas, it was freaky.  I ended up plotting the whole thing tonight.

For example:  Tian’s, the hero’s, static trait is that he always consults the coins.  The first scene shows him doing this.  So naturally, in his darkest moment of betrayal, he checks the coins, and rightfully gets the hexagram 36 – Ming Yi – Brilliance Injured or Darkening of the Light.  I was getting ready to move on to the Masquerade, when one line from the description caught my eye:  “Hunting in the south, captured the great chief.”

Hmmm.  Interesting, I thought.  I ended up adding a scene where they do just that — capture the Queen’s right hand man. 

This static trait comes back in the first climax, where he distracts someone who knows him well by doing the casting again before “making a decision” when he’s really just buying time.  There, he casts 18 – Gu – Worm or Decay.  I just love the whole idea of it.

I’m sure I’ll need to do more tweaking, but the outline of plot is here.  I still need to think of one crucial item that ties Morghan’s father to the theme, and I need to spend a bit more time making sure her dark moment is appropriately hopeless.  Anyway, here is the first draft of the block outline for 7Crows.

Section Title POV
001 Tea with the Stars Morghan
002 Dragon Hid in the Deep Tian
003 At the Captain’s Table Morghan
004 Sage Advice Morghan
005 Promenade Tian
006 Winged Dance Morghan
007 Scaled Mask Tian
008 Fallen Crow Morghan
009 Lost Morghan
010 The Crow Queen Tian
011 Flying in Darkness Morghan
012 Trap is Sprung Morghan
013 Dragon Flying Low Tian
014 Black Feathers Morghan
015 Bedraggled Crow Tian
016 Wing to Wing Morghan
017 Suspicion on the Wing Morghan
018 Darkening Light Tian
019 The Queen’s Right Hand Morghan
020 Masquerade Tian
021 Tower of Crow Morghan
022 Consult the Oracle Tian
023 As the Crow Flies Morghan
024 Seven Crows Morghan

 

My typical section averages around 1K, so this will be right in line for the size requirements.  Assuming it doesn’t grow too much in draft…