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Friday, August 29, 2014

Novels, Sequels, and Looking Back

So I'm working on the sequel to the novel I wrote last year for NaNoWriMo, and I'm having as much fun with it as I did with the first one. Something I did to help stay motivated during NaNoWriMo last year was to post word counts and little summaries of plots points or how the writing was going every day. I'm doing it again for the new book on facebook but I thought it would be fun to post the recap of all the posts from the first one, Murder Between the Worlds. It's an interesting look back at the process I went through while I was writing and also some fun hints about the way the story developed:

7,101 words- And the plot thickens.
I seriously doubt this thing will be done at 50,000 words; I'm almost 1/7th of the way to that and no where near out of the basic intro stuff...I'd guesstimate maybe 70,000 or 80,000 words in the end...

12, 623- ....and its just starting to get interesting

14,739- I have totally jacked up my protagonists day. Don't judge me! Also this book officially needs a warning for graphic content.

17,882- My protagonists day has not improved and the plot is even thicker.

19020 words- Thanks to my awesome friend Tricia for reading the draft and suggested some changes I have to add some more early stuff, but it was great criticism.

22,347- Someone's running out of time - I feel so Joss Whedon-ish

24,767- My protagonists day has improved and romance is in the air, but someone else is definitely about to end up on the wrong side of a sharp knife....

26,580 words-  6 rough chapters, 45 standard pages - plenty of room for fleshing things out later on
lots of dialogue today and some important character back-story....

30,085 words - My protagonist is about to find out that things can get a lot worse...and there's a love triangle even I wasn't expecting that is definitely going to complicate things.

33,439 words- my protagonist has made a significant breakthrough, clue-wise. Unfortunately someone close to her made the mistake of trusting the wrong person and was rewarded with a knife (or two) in the back....

37,006 words- Death has caused someone to seek solace in another's arms, which is bound to agitate my unintended love triangle. Someone else might have a chance for unexpected redemption - the question is, does he want to be redeemed?

40, 088 words- Some relationships are starting to fracture under the strain of the recent murder, while others are strengthened. My protagonist has made a major breakthrough, which is turning out to be a double edge sword, and little does she know the worst is yet to come...there's another knife waiting in the dark and this time its hitting very close to home indeed...

42,778 words- A minor clue has been slipped in with the bigger one and my protagonist is on the cusp of a major breakthrough- but the killer is about to throw out a big red herring to try to get the investigators off his trail...we'll have to see who falls for it
Also, I apparently really love writing dialogue - who knew?

45,177 words- My protagonist has realized that knowing as much as she does is putting her in danger. Those around her who need her help to solve this mystery are trying to protect her but it may not be enough.
Also there's a kelpie, because why not?

52, 228 words- my protagonist made a huge breakthrough in understanding why the killer is killing, and then made a very hard decision; she also seems to have uncovered an unexpected ability, but unless she learns how to use it, it could be more of a weakness than a strength. Unfortunately for her the killer has struck again close to home, trying to throw the investigators off his track, and he may have found some new allies.

55049 words- my protagonist has gone to the borders of Fairy seeking answers, and met the an important person there. Soon though its back to reality and there's bad news waiting for her there...

59, 281 words- my protagonist is taking the latest death very badly. The killer has set his sights on her as the biggest risk to his plans, but she may be too blinded by grief to see the danger, and the investigation is in chaos as the police argue over the false clues...

62,736 words- my protagonist has decided to be proactive and try to actively seek the killer out, rather than wait around to be killed, but this might not be the best idea. The investigators have divided and the official search for justice is stalling as everyone fights among themselves, which might also place my protagonist in more danger.

69, 736 - my protagonist found the last major clue, but no one has been able to put the cryptic pieces together yet. The other side of the love triangle chose the worst possible moment to start fighting for the girl, but he may have waited too long - when everyone's guard was down my protagonist ended up in the killer's hands. He's got a fate worse than death in store for her unless she can find a way to use her new ability to call for help, and even then - will help arrive in time?

73,387 words- denouement ~ finis opus
Sorry guys can't say anything else or I'll give away the ending
I suspect with editing and some added description and dialogue it'll pass 75,000...

83,421 - final word count

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Dreaming of Ravens

 I know I don't often write about my own personal experiences with deities and spirits. There's a couple reasons for that, including that it's often hard to put such experiences into words. I also find that discussing such experiences is a very soul baring, exposing kind of thing and I'm not a big one for offering up that part of myself to public scrutiny. The biggest reason though is probably the simplest: it is nearly impossible to put a numinous experience into words without losing the very quality in it that made it numinous. Trying to describe it loses its feeling of mystery. You just can't really convey in words what it was to experience the thing you are trying to share. Nonetheless I am going to try here, but I'll take a page from the old Fili and Druids' books (pun intended) and attempt to do it in poetry.
 I dreamed last night -
 dream or vision or something more -
 of ravens and bloody rivers,
 hounds and horses coursing,
 pounding hooves and howling voices,
 Herself* crying "Woe to those who flee!
 Blood and battle is upon them!
The fight is upon you! 
Stand your ground! Stand and fight! 
Hard slaughter and a great victory!"
Her voice and the roaring of a river, 
water and blood mixing,
and hounds and horses, 
and riders armed and armored,
A feeling of panic and joy
of despair and ecstasy joined
twisting together in my gut
until I wanted to rush forward
into any danger, throw myself,
heedless, into madness and battle,
blades clashing, water rushing,
screams of war and death together,
ravens' wings tearing the air
My breath coming in gasps and gulps,
too winded to add my voice to the din,
but pushing forward, forward, further,
each step a success as earth 
become mud as it mixed with blood.
And then, abruptly, the dream was gone
in a baby's cry, in my son's need for me,
I woke to stillness. 
No blood. No battle. 
No death. No river.
But a yard full of black birds
their voices strident and discordant
singing to me of dreams and shadows
I moved through the day 
expecting wings and warriors
the vision like a memory of feathers
which irritates and soothes simultaneously
and, again and again, ceaseless as the tide,
Or a fast flowing stream,
Her voice calling "Awake! Arise!"....

* The Morrigan, possibly Badb

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Morrigan, War, and a guest blog on Patheos

 Yesterday I wrote a guest blog for Raise the Horns on Patheos titled The Morrigan, War, & How We See Our Gods. It looks at the more difficult aspects of the Morrigan's mythology and character and why it's important, in my opinion, to face those things in her we fear or are disturbed by instead of turning away from them or trying to minimize them. It also touches on the equally challenging subject of the value of war in the quest for peace. Click over and give it a read if you're interested.  

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Sovereignty Then and Now

  We talk a lot about goddesses of sovereignty, especially in Irish polytheism, but there is a disconnect between the ancient understanding of what those goddesses did and what they are seen to do in a modern context. Often the way that sovereignty is perceived is heavily colored by modern ideals of the value of the individual and of individual freedom, while the ancient view saw sovereignty as the right of one person to exert control over others. This disconnect is born from a misunderstanding or romanticism of the historic concept and yet may also represent a way in which the old gods are evolving and adapting to a new world.
   To begin, sovereignty itself may not be a very good translation of the Old Irish word flaitheas, although it is one given by the dictionary. Flaitheas more properly should probably be translated as "rulership" or the right to rule, which is also another of its meanings. The ancient goddesses of sovereignty gave the kings and chieftains the right to rule over the people, effectively legitimizing their kingship. To have the blessing or approval of the goddess of sovereignty, to symbolically marry her, was to be given the divine right to rule. In the context of ancient Irish culture this was a very important thing because only with the approval of this goddess, only with flaitheas, could a king prosper in his rule; through right relation to the goddess of flaitheas a king could bring abundance and security to his people and land. Angering her though would lead to destruction, one way or another.
   Where this gets tricky linguistically is that the word sovereignty in English not only means the authority of someone or something over a group, but also freedom from external control. While the Old Irish word means ruling, and is even used as a word to mean a kingdom or realm, the English word only partially overlaps these meanings and includes connotations of independence and freedom that are entirely lacking in the Irish. In this case the choice of words in translation is very important, especially since the newer understanding has grown largely out of the concepts surrounding the English term, not the Irish.
    Many people today when they see the word sovereignty used interpret it not as the right to rule a place and its people but rather as a word relating to personal autonomy. This may be inaccurate in a historical context, but for those of us living in a place without a functioning monarchy what else would sovereignty be? When there is no king to marry the land, no chieftain to be chosen and blessed by the goddess, then what becomes of the concept of sovereignty itself? How can we not internalize it and make it personal, make it about our right to rule over our own land, which is our body, our own kingdom, which is ourselves. When we honor the goddess of sovereignty in our lives we are honoring a modern concept of sovereignty, but that is no less impactful or important than the ancient one. It is different, and more personal, but just as powerful in its own way to call on a goddess of sovereignty today as ever.
    What does a goddess of sovereignty do in a culture with no kings to crown? Perhaps she adopts a new understanding of sovereignty in line with a new time that sees the value in the individual over the value of the group. Perhaps she shifts her view from weighing the merit of kings to rule the land to the merit of the individual to rule their own life. She will test us, she will judge us, she will weigh our worth.
  Let us strive to be worthy. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Frau Holda, physical worship and a story about knitting

 Recently there was an interesting blog about hands-on worship, the idea of honoring our Gods with practical physical actions. I thought it was well written and made good points but it also got me thinking about how often we may be called to do that in our own lives and how - or whether - we respond. So I wanted to share a story about my experience with Frau Holda, and the way that tangible skills are an act of worship in themselves.
   When I began honoring Frau Holda one of the first things I felt strongly was that she wanted me to learn how to knit. To me this made sense from her, as she is a Goddess associated with spinning yarn, and knitting is about as close to working with yarn as I can afford to get. But sensible or not I was dismayed. I am a domestic person in certain ways but anything relating to yarn makes me twitchy - its too tedious, too sedentary, too repetitive. I love the end results but I hate the very idea of my being the one to do it. So suffice to say that I was not thrilled to feel called to learn this skill. I dreaded it. I dragged my feet and of course found circumstances aligning so that I had ample unexpected opportunities to learn anyway. I was given all the supplies I needed, including yarn, by my grandmother who suddenly decided I was the perfect person to give her knitting paraphernalia too when her eyesight no longer let her do it herself. The same day I was at my daughters' school book fair, walking past a display, when one of those hobbies-for-dummies boxed kits suddenly fell off the table onto the floor in front of me. The topic of the kit? Knitting of course.
    I can't say I've enjoyed the process so far, and I find it challenging my weaknesses in ways that are both frustrating and irritating. I would have thought I was a patient person before starting to learn this skill. But there is undeniably something about the feel of the yarn under my fingers, the motion of my hands, the almost meditative quality of the motion, that is very powerful. I think of my grandmother knitting. I think of all the women in my family for hundreds of years that helped clothe their families with this skill. And I meditate on Frau Holda spinning, spinning, spinning....
   I haven't produced anything yet worth bragging about, but I haven't given up either. I keep trying, and honoring Frau Holda with my effort. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

In the Earth - a poem

In the Earth

If I were a Goddess, ancient and mighty
I'd choose to live in the dark earth
deep down in the fertile soil
full of life and death and growth

What does the sky offer, after all?
Boundless, borderless, endlessly shifting
Nothing to dig your hands into
No place to put down roots

Give me dirt and depth to anchor myself
Give me solid stone and sleeping seeds
The bones of the dead and cycle of seasons
blended and blurred and twisting together

If I were a Goddess, ancient and mighty
I'd leave the sky and make a home in earth
where blood and shadow dance together
where life and death are joined