Friday, January 25, 2008

Wednesday Worldbuilding Workshop

Welcome! This is a post both for tracking/reading the Wednesday Worldbuilding Workshop and for submitting to it.

First, if you're interested in workshopping with me and having your work looked at by my readers, please submit, in the comments space below, an excerpt of no more than five hundred words from your work in progress (novel length or shorter story length), with a sentence or two telling me what kind of feedback you're looking for. If the excerpt is the opening of your work, and you want feedback on your world-entry, don't tell me anything else. If the excerpt is from the middle of your work, you may add an additional sentence or two to give me some basic previous context. Entries totaling over 1000 words of text and explanation cannot be considered, so please be concise. Please include an email address if you want me to inform you that you have been selected.

Here is a list of links to all the posts that have appeared in the Wednesday Worldbuilding Workshop, in case you would like to take a look:
  1. The Narrator is Your Ambassador - E. Arroyo
  2. Making the Amnesiac work for you - Megs
  3. Managing the juxtaposition of normal and abnormal - David Marshall
  4. Signposting Differences - Che Gilson
  5. Macro- and micro-grounding - Anonymous
  6. Foregrounding and Backgrounding Information - Rachel Udin
  7. Description implies narrator focus - Domini
  8. Metaphors and magic in a blended world - Harry Markov
  9. Take your time and build - Nnedi Okorafor (for her Nebula-nominated Who Fears Death)
  10. Managing information and surprises - Suzi McGowen
  11. Aligning "Ordinary" Judgment - Megs
  12. Ambiguity and Anchoring in Fantasy Contexts - Lexie
  13. Orienting by marking insiders and outsiders - Siri Paulson
  14. Superiors and inferiors in a magic system - Nicole Sheldrake


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  2. =P Used my Cultural Anthropology training and research skills for this.

    Narrow Birdcage

    500 words

    The sound of footsteps echoed in the palace, almost distant to my ears. I realized that the sound of the footsteps were my own and the echo was the slap of my sandals against the marble floor of the open hallway to the men's quarters. The dream-vision still engulfed me, leaving me with the singular purpose of seeing my older brother, Hanuman.

    I glanced up into the sky through the pillared pointed archways and saw that the moon was high so I knew the time to be the middle of the night.

    I saw the guards in front of the men's chamber doorway, who were sleeping. I ducked their crossed spears and held my thick braid tight, so it would not swing into them. I continued running, letting my sandals slap until the hallway opened to a tall vaulted ceiling and then I reached the door of my older brother.

    Servants caught me there and they held me back as I pound on the door. They were male servants--but they dare not touch me too much lest they soil my name and incur the wrath of my father, the King.

    "Then you must call for him," I demanded.

    "Princess, it is late."

    "This urgent--I must see him now."

    A servant slipped into Hanuman's quarters.

    I neatened my black braid. My bangles jingled. I had not realized I had grabbed them. I saw now that I was still in my night clothes, but shrugged it off.

    Hanuman came out in his night wear, tired and yawning.

    "Older Brother, I must speak to you--because we must leave."

    Hanuman held his forehead and then looked at me through his stupor. "Another dream vision? Must we follow this one, too?"

    "You must come with me."

    "Younger Sister Shakti--it is the middle of the night. The King will be furious to find that you've come to the men's quarters again."

    I came a little to myself and realized that I had come to the men's quarters again, but the dream-vision was too strong and shook me. I could see the Gods beckoning me to action through their incarnated forms. The soft sounds of Sita's voice told me the message while Rama watched. I repeated the words. "Across the sea, my husband is waiting for me. He has been waiting a long time."

    Hanuman rubbed his eyes. "Father will never agree. He will find you a husband. Don't fret--you are only fifteen."

    He was rambling again. He yawned wide.

    "You helped me last time--"

    "And I regret it. Let it wait until morning. Why not bother me when the sun is well into the sky and the naan is just baked in the oven?"

    He stretched again and shut the door behind him. I pound on it.

    The soft click of sandals came down the corridor. I turned my head and saw the servants from my chamber--few as they were--headed by the mistress of the women's quarters.

  3. Ok, here's my piece. It's 371 words, because I thought that was a good stopping place. I don't need you to email me, because I read your blog every day :)

    What I want to know is if it works. I'm trying to show a different culture w/o talking about that culture. Instead, I talk about her reactions to ours.


    I took stock of my injuries. I hadn't even been on the job a month and I had 14 bruises, a concussion, multiple cuts and abrasions, a broken arm, and now, a gunshot wound. Being a Tooth Fairy shouldn't be this hard.

    It wasn't like I always wanted to be a Tooth Fairy. In fact, if I hadn't seen that poster, I probably would have lived my entire life without that thought ever crossing my mind. But sometimes Fate is like that. You're walking down the street in the early evening and you see something that changes your life.

    For me, that fateful night had started out as a typical evening. Once the sun had set and it was safe for me to leave the library, I headed over to Shangri-La for my nightly cuppa tea.
    I walked in and out of the pools of light from the streetlights, the silver charms on my pockets jingling softly with each step. Sometimes car headlights would pick me out of the darkness, but I wasn't concerned. My glamour was up and I could pass for human. Tall, but human.

    The telephone pole on the street corner was littered with signs and posters. Ads for weight loss, garage sales, a local band. The normal dross of human society. But the scent of magic caught my attention.

    My nose twitched and I stopped to give the posters a more thorough look. There was one that was dusted with glamour. Humans probably only saw a sign for a lost pet, or something. What I saw was the flier that changed my life. It said simply, "Job opening: Night Hours. Any fae may apply."

    Matchmaking jobs had been slim lately, and while I wasn't hurting, I was always on the lookout for more work. But I didn't feel a burst of hope when I saw this poster. I felt a flash of anger. The last line got me, "any fae may apply". I snorted. Yeah, right. Because I know darn well my kind is not welcome in most situations. I knew the sign should have said, "Any elf or dwarf may apply, brownies, pookahs, and gnomes may be considered, but trolls are asked to please stay home."

  4. Well, I was trying to be good and not submit too many things from just me, but here's the first 496 of short story "The Alchemist" for world entry.


    The alchemist was a little old man tottering about his snug, comfortable little house at the edge of the village. It was a mountain cabin, quite ordinary, except of course for the lush foliage growing just outside his front door, come rain or shine, snowy winter or burning summer, and except for the garden back behind his house with the trees that never dropped their leaves or lost their chittering squirrel residents. Aside from these simple, reasonable differences, there was rather nothing out of the ordinary about his cabin and his fireplace and his stacks of wood and his cheerful elderly face, remarkably free from wrinkles, and his white hair and his carved wooden cane and the general way he went about his business among the common folk.

    On a rather ordinary autumn day, when the leaves were just beginning to fall throughout the village and up the red and golden slopes of the short balding mountain rising to the north, something extraordinary happened. The village children stopped their play, clutching dolls and small iron horses in their hands, to gape at the real horse stepping now onto their dusty road. The village mothers ceased their chattering gossip and weaving and kneading and general busyness to stare at the magnificent embroidered cloak of the rider. The village fathers set down their mugs of brew and their records and their pounding hammers and warily eyed the noble's disdainful expression. The young men stopped beating the bellows and running about on errands to instead follow the progress of the stranger between their houses and stalls and penned enclosures toward the house of the little old man at the edge of the village with his green trees not turned to gold and his bushy roses and apples still giving off the scent of summer.

    This was not an ordinary thing at all. Nobility, especially men, did not show up in little mountain villages supported by ironwork and copper. They did not ride down the center of the village with attention only to spare for the village alchemist. In fact, they did not visit alchemists at all!

    Needless to say, the children and mothers and fathers and young men and young women gathered about the old man's house to see what would happen. The young noble with his disdainful look and his fabulous cloak paid them no heed as he dismounted from his fine horse and strode up to the door of the mountain cabin and knocked.

    The villagers could hear the puttering of the little man's feet and the tapping of his cane, then the turning of the copper knob on his door. The door opened larger than a crack, but smaller than a welcome, and the alchemist's white head poked around the edge of the door.

    "May I help you?"

    The noble wasted no time. "I am told you are an alchemist." He paused dramatically. "A successful one."

    The alchemist squinted up into the noble's face. "I am."

  5. Miskriila laughed. Or at least, she tried to laugh. The smell coming from the abomination in front of her made it difficult.

    "You would come here, oozing slime from your every step, and ask for shelter? Be grateful that we did not slaughter you before you reached the gates, beast," she said.

    "I came to ask for shelter in exchange for information on those that fled Rottown. Something you seem to have forgotten," replied the Rotman.

    "Forgotten?" She said softly. "Forgotten! I did not forget. I simply do not care. Now begone! Go back to your damned swamp or stay in the mountains until you freeze, I don't care. Just get out of my city," she shouted.

    "Very well," the Rotman said. "But do not expect to be welcome among us in the future."

  6. One thing: If Miskriila's dialogue seems a bit... Off at times, it's probably due to my writing about someone that's the opposite gender from myself.

  7. C'nor, your excerpt is very short. Have you considered submitting 500 words? I would be able to work better with it in that case. Thanks for submitting!

  8. Sorry for triple posting...

    I may have misunderstood. I couldn't find the introduction post, so if I did, my apologies. This isn't part of an existing work; it's something I came up with for this. Though, I am now writing stuff off of it. Is that allowed? Everything else that I've seen so far has been from something that's already written, so...

  9. C'nor, this is a workshop for works in progress. So if you have written this for me, that will work fine- it is a work in progress! On the other hand, I think I could help you more if you had a few more words of this to show me. It's up to you.

  10. 516 words; wanted to finish the (apparently long) sentence - chapter opening later in Radiance. This is the first world entry into this side of things and with anything definitive on how the power system works. (Don't call it magic here.)


    Silence resounded softly in the bright corners of the Great Hall of the last Order of the Pure. The quiet was a tangible thing, pressing in around minds used to the constant hum of shielding and reaching, radiant vibrations, swirling over marble floors that once echoed with the footfalls of the living, now silent, silent, silent...

    Jhaiyla Shalea, Hierarch of the Order, stood motionless in the silent room, letting it fill her with its wrongness and its soothingness, its solemnity. Her silk skirts were silent with her, leaving only her breath to impress its sound upon the emptiness. She pressed one hand against the balcony railing at the great windows to the left of the Hall, gaze fixed unswervingly into the distance over forested mountain ridges, toward the golden peaks of Chirrith. Her heart felt empty. Her heart could not stay in this house bereft but had left with her daughters to the Borderlands, where they fought endlessly for the light.

    An eddy formed in the pool of stillness around the fortress. It rippled over her straining senses, and she followed its progress into the Keep past the gatekeeper through the long narrow colonnaded hallway that led to the Great Hall. Finally, sound matched vibration and the faint echo of a rider’s boots scuffed over marble stone.

    Then silence.

    A wind ruffled the top branches of the grandfather cypress just past the northern wall. Jhaiyla watched it steadily. Her voice was as steady as her gaze: “News?”

    “Yes, my Lady,” rasped a rough, masculine voice.

    She identified it after a moment. Rahth. The lead rider and most valuable of scouts. What news could possibly spare him?

    She turned then and met his shockingly bright blue eyes and the rough, uncombed, unwashed visage. His clothes bore hard travel in stains and dust. His boots were painted too bright with the sands of the journey. Her heart quailed. She lifted her chin.

    Men like Rahth did not hesitate, so when he appraised her as if for strength, she snapped, “What news?”

    “The Lady Sahlorih,” he rasped and leaned forward to press a small rolled parchment into her hand. “She has been captured.”

    The name struck her like a blow. Jhaiyla clutched the roll in her hand and turned away again. Sahlorih, the daughter of her heart. Her hand trembled. “Is that all?” she asked, voice still steady.

    “Ráven has fallen.”

    And with it, their last hope. Only then did Jhaiyla sink to her knees on the marble floor of the Great Hall. Her searing mental cry rent through the stillness in the Hall and flooded out in circles through the guarding light about the Order.

    Footsteps clattered over the marble floors and there were the young stable boys and the old gatekeeper with his white hair falling away from his eyes and the old woman who washed their clothes and counted it blessing.

    “Vas’hehreinya,” called the old gatekeeper.

    She could not see him for the blurring of her eyes and all she could think was the Heirarch should not cry, not before the riders, not before her Order.

  11. This is the opening of a novel (499 words). In addition to the worldbuilding notes, I'm interested to hear if it draws you in, and if not, why not.


    Athneh shifted position on the carpet where she sat cross-legged. "Herbs from the fish-kin!" she cried. "Healing herbs for all your ills!" Around her on the market quay, City-dwellers hurried on without stopping. It made her edgy.

    A Ferrican stopped before her. She raised her eyes past the crenellated hem of his tunic to the bow in his hand. "Expecting trouble, sir?"

    "I need a protection charm," he said in accented Kemetian. That wasn't exactly an answer, but it wasn't a denial, either.

    Guilt warred with shame. "I...I have none, sir."

    "But you're a fish-kin. Or are you an Islander trying to make a profit off fake magic?"

    Athneh gasped, the insult rendering her speechless. Her people might live on the Islands too, but they weren't the same as the Islanders. Even Ferricans knew that.

    Ruri leaned over from behind the weavings she had spread out next to Athneh's carpet. "She's all out of the charms you want, sir. They've been popular today."

    Athneh shot her friend a grateful glance. "That's right," she said to the Ferrican. "But I have herbs to make your mind sharper and your movements faster. Would those tempt you?"

    "Fine, but be quick."

    Athneh blinked. Ferricans were normally chatty. She took several bunches from the assortment before her and wrapped them in a cloth. "Brew two pinches of this into a tea and drink it. If you're in a hurry, use cold water, but the effect will be less pronounced. Don't use more than two pinches per day or you'll get the shakes. Any questions?" She put the herbs into a small sewn bag and looked up at him.

    "How much?"

    "Two packets of salt, sir."

    The Ferrican dropped the packets into her hand and took the bag. He glanced from Ruri to Athneh and then their husbands in the small boats tied up behind them. "Be careful, fish-kin. The Kemete have cut off negotiations with the City. Everyone's waiting to see what they do next."

    Ruri opened her mouth, Athneh went to elbow her, and a horn from the City walls made them both jump. Athneh whipped her head around to see the sentry on the south wall, facing the coast of Kemet across the strait, wind his bronze horn a second time. The Ferrican ran off.

    "Quickly!" called Jorlath from the boat he shared with Ruri. "We've got to get out of here!"

    Ruri, gone almost as pale as the Ferrican, began to roll up her weavings without a word.

    Brin said mildly from the other boat, "Perhaps it would be better to stay within the walls."

    Athneh shivered. The very idea made the City seem smaller, despite the whitewashed buildings that rose three or even four storeys. She had always liked the gentle curves of the walls and roofs, the window-boxes overflowing with flowers from the Islands and the river delta of Kemet and beyond, but now all she wanted was to be on the open water that surrounded the City.

  12. When Benjamin Skyhammer opened his office door, the Relic collector remained seated, hidden behind an open newspaper. The collector was early and Skyhammer was alone. He glanced at the bare brick walls, the two shuttered windows, and the three lone pieces of furniture, one table and two chairs. Higgins was definitely not there. He swallowed and stepped into his office.

    "About time you got here, Skyhammer. I had to waste energy on a spell to unlock the door. Where's my Relic?" Kelhenia, collector of Relics, tossed her newspaper on the wooden table, then crossed her arms over her pristine white jacket.

    Skyhammer's jaw tightened as he shut the door. He strode to the table in the middle of the room, nose wrinkling at a waft of her heavy floral perfume. Eyes trained on the jiggling jowls of the overweight woman across from him, he lifted his backpack off his shoulder.

    "I said where's my Relic, Untouchable scum?" Kelhenia slipped a red, rectangular glass slate from her pocket.

    Skyhammer's eyes widened. She was going to perform a spell on him! With a swift movement, his right hand gripped the hilt of his longsword, then fell away. He was defenseless. He could haul out his sword and attempt to slice her in half but like most humans who lived in the Royal Circle, she would be protected by a magic shield.

    Kelhenia's sausage fingers drew in the impressionable glass, a sketch that looked like nails had pressed hard into sunburned skin, creating white lines. She blew across the drawing.

    First the drawing then the table disappeared, leaving the newspaper to plummet to the wooden floor and land with a soft smack.

    He clutched the strap of the backpack he'd been about to drop on the table. "In here," he muttered, relieved that she'd used her magic on the table instead of him. He didn't consider himself good-looking but over the years he'd grown attached to his spiky brown hair, six-foot-four height and prominent ears.

    "Well? Aren't you going to put the table back?" She sniggered, then raised her eyebrows.
    Two years. Two years he'd been selling the woman Relics and every time they met she had to taunt him about his lack of magic powers. His teeth clenched. It wasn't his fault he was an Untouchable, born without magic.

    His backpack thumped onto the ground.

    "How dare you abuse my Relic!" Kelhenia leapt up, face red, fingers starting to trace another pattern on her magic slate.

    "It's not yours yet." Skyhammer knelt and opened the clasp of his bag. Maybe he could distract the collector. Higgins wasn't due to arrive for at least another ten minutes. Kelhenia could easily steal the Relic from him before then.

    She gasped as he withdrew the Relic.

    Thick cyan liquid filled a simple red clay bowl to the brim. Three inches above the bowl, a stream of the liquid erupted out of the air and poured down like wine from an invisible bottle.

  13. I drank in the sleek lines of the ship sitting before us in Father’s hanger bay. She gleamed even under the harsh lights. Though small enough for a single person to operate, she was roomy enough for cargo and passengers. Or perhaps a small crew. What class of ship was she? The design was nothing like the ones I’d studied or those belonging to Father’s clients. Space to atmosphere flights would be no problem for her.

    “What do you think?” Father folded his arms.

    “She’s beautiful.” My words came out as a reverential sigh. I scarcely dared to hope this was the ship he’d promised me for excelling in my coursework. My scores hadn’t even arrived yet, though we both knew I’d done well. “Could this be the one?”

    He showed nearly as little expression as normal, but I could tell my reaction pleased him. “That will be up to Mr. Jones.”

    A man in the grey and red uniform of the Space Authorities stepped out of the little ship. I stood a little straighter. What did the SA have to do with me? He gave a crisp bow. “Congratulations, Miss Sarai, on obtaining the highest scores in your classes than anyone has had in ten years. I are proud to award you with this.” He handed me a small certificate.

    I sucked in a breath. Perfect scores in astrogation and piloting? And nearly as high in everything else? I hadn’t imagined I’d done quite that well. “Th-thank you. I studied hard.”

    Father kissed me on the cheek. “Congratulations, my dear. You are a credit to the Sarai name.” He looked at Mr. Jones. “I told you she’d excel.”

    The man’s expression softened. “You did at that, Doctor.” His eyes probed mine. What he was looking for, I had no idea. I just held his gaze as steadily as I could. He nodded thoughtfully after several long moments. “Yes, I believe you’ll do. We shall be most interested in your career, Miss Sarai.” He shook my hand. “Good day to you both.” Instead of going back into the small ship, he entered the large cruiser beside it and bowed again before closing the hatch. The ship lumbered up and passed through the forcefield, quickly pulling away from the station into open space.

    What had he meant? And why would an SA official come all this way just to personally give me my scores? I had no intentions of going into law enforcement or the military. I was a civilian, daughter of a scientist. Though Mr. Jones did seem acquainted with Father. I looked back at the certificate in my hands. It was printed on real paper.

    “Well, my dear? Don’t you want to go inside?”

    My head snapped up. “Do you mean…?”

    “Yes, she is yours.” He held up a hand. “Conditionally.”

    A whiff of chemicals and dead flesh tickled my nose. I turned slowly to see eight of Father’s latest zombie experiments coming to halt behind me in a perfect line. I had a pretty good guess where this was going.

    (This is technically about 513 words, so you can cut it after "Conditionally" to keep it under the word limit. I couldn't help leaving that last bit attached though, since it makes a better cutting off part.)

  14. Crud, I forgot to fix a minor error. It's supposed to be "I am proud to award you..." It had been "We are proud..." but I forgot to change the verb.

  15. At first she thought it was just the shock of having a burning building fall on top of her. But when Juliette stopped to take a breath, she realized she wasn't feeling any pain - and while her clothing was damaged and torn beyond belief, her skin underneath remained unblemished, just porcelain smudged with ashes and dirt. Her bones were unbroken. Even her hair was untouched, no singed bits, not even any split ends. And that just wasn't normal.

    Unlike Papa, she had no Gifts... and it was that Einstein fellow who'd said that there wouldn't be any more Awakenings unless something like the Rapture happened again - and the chances of anything else falling from the sky out of space were remote. Is that what happened at the warehouse? The rest of the City didn't seem in the kind of uproar another Rapture would have caused, so it must have been just her. That warehouse was a laboratory full of strange contraptions and devices - perhaps one of them repeated the Rapture, maybe in miniature? She had to ask Frankie, or Papa.

    Papa... she glanced back down the alley at the burning wreckage of the warehouse. Memory started trickling into her foggy mind - an explosion, then the warehouse collapsing. It was probably too quick for Papa to have blinked out. She wanted to run back to the wreckage, see if she could find him - but then she heard the sirens of fire trucks. The police wouldn't be too far behind.

    If Papa had survived, the old bastard would kill her if she'd let herself get caught. And if he hadn't survived, he wouldn't want her to waste time in mourning. She looked up at the almost-full moon and muttered a little invocation to Athena - a superstition she'd picked up from her father. She shook her head at the foolishness of it, wiped her eyes, and dashed off into the night.

    She had to get home, and without her father's Gifts, home was a long way away. She looked down at the tattered, scorched remnants of what was once her favorite body-stocking. Now she was showing more skin than a burlesque dancer, and that would get her more attention than she wanted. Before anything else, she needed to get herself some clothes.

    On the top of a nearby building, she saw a clothesline. A cotton frock was dangling, swaying in the wind. She felt a knot in her stomach, telling her she could get there, if only she just jumped. She remembered what Papa told her about his Awakening, when he'd learned what to do with his Gifts. It was almost an instinct, he said - it just felt natural. When an opportunity came up, he just knew what to do.

    (NOTE: the character's first name being identical to yours is completely coincidental)

  16. Just wanted to let you know I didn't take offense at being asked to lengthen it or anything. I'm still working on it, but I'm having some problems with transitioning between different scenes.

  17. Thanks for letting me know, C'nor. I'll be happy to see it when you're ready.

  18. Hi Juliette! I am a big fan of your wednesday worldbuildings--they have been so informative for me over the past few months. I'm submitting my first worldbuilding attempt below, and would appreciate your thoughts.


    The knock came about half an hour before Sundown. Strange, I think. Nobody visits that late. The evening is meant for quiet activities with the family, activities like knitting or meditation behind barred windows and doors. Stranger still was the way Mama dropped her needles, her face lit with excitement. “Papa! We have a visitor!” she calls.

    Papa rushes in from the back room, barely able to conceal the grin on his face. Come to think of it, the two of them have been in an unusually good mood all day. I’d overheard Papa whistling as he stitched shirts in the shop, and Mama had kissed my face and suggested I change into a nicer dress during breakfast. I eventually picked out a pale yellow one, ankle-length and long-sleeved as per the Customs, but with a row of shiny silver buttons trailing down the front. One of my very own designs.

    “What are you waiting for, Maeve? Get the door!” Papa calls.

    His request is what gives it away. Me, opening the door. That almost never happens. The Customs don’t forbid it outright, but every family knows that it’s the patriarch’s duty to greet guests.

    Which means there’s only one person that could be standing outside.

    Sure enough, when I pull back the door, it’s Glenn’s sunny smile that greets me. “Good evening, Ms. Ingersoll,” he says with a bow of his head.

    I return the bow but make a face that only he can see. His smile broadens; Glenn always pokes fun at how devoutly I follow our Customs, but even I can’t help feeling foolish when the two of us address each other by our surnames in public. We were the only two children in our village for half a decade, born only a day apart. Our mamas tell us we’ve been inseparable ever since.

    “May I invite you out for a stroll?” he asks loudly. It’s a question more directed to Papa than me, but when I glance over, both he and Mama are nodding. Papa has a hand placed on Mama’s shoulder.

    “Make sure she’s back before Sundown,” Mama calls as I shut the door behind me.

    Glenn’s dressed in his sentinel’s uniform, but that boyish smile makes him look more like a bard than a soldier. Just a week ago, he started his latest assignment as a member of the Night Sentinels, the ones that keep watch over the Hollow after Sundown. I open my mouth to ask him what he’s doing here so late but his eyes are gleaming as he says, “Come with me.”

    “Where? It’s nearly Sundown.”

    “It won’t take long. I promise. We’ll just go to your favorite hill.”

    My favorite hill is a good, steep, ten minute climb. Going there and back would be risky in the amount of time we have left. But I don’t get a chance to argue because he’s already darted yards ahead of me.

  19. Hi Juliette! I came across your site through Jane Friedman's "Best Tweets for Writers Daily" and after a few days of browsing I am impressed with the quality and breadth of your content. It's great to find another fantasy author with an interest in linguistics and anthropology!

    The following is the first five hundred words of the opening for my fantasy novel "Winter's Eve". This section is a frame narrative, and so I am a little unsure about its effectiveness—my main concern is that it is too removed from immediate action and that the narrative voice may turn some readers off.

    The extract is 520 words, because I wanted to include all of the prologue. If that’s a problem feel free to disregard the last couple of sentences.

    Email: *at*

    Every faithful Alonïan knows the history of the past one hundred years of their country, of the invasion of the barbarian Empire and the resulting exile of the people within their own kingdom. Even as a scholar, locked in my mountain hovel with only books and glass for company, I am under no illusions about the reality of our life as the plundered Jewel of the Levayan.

    Of all the monarchs in our history, none is more reviled than Aiäna the Fallen. The epithet “Whore of Moranivah” is a favourite curse on the tongues of both children and priests. One would think that she was born with the name Baghada, the Unfaithful, rather than as Aiäna el’Henar i Veira. It was she who turned her back on her people, who allowed herself to be entwined with the Menolkan invaders and thus handed over her kingdom and her people to the rule of oppressors for three generations. The circumstances surrounding her accession, marriage and death have become legend in the century since her ill-fated birth.

    Yet such legends rely solely on stories handed from mother to daughter, father to son, teacher to student, storyteller to listener. We have come to rely on the fragile words of men scribbled on paper. We have become like those who now live on our land, with their scrolls and their ink and their reliance on what is written rather than what is lived. Even I must resort to parchment to record these words. We no longer have glass to show us the truth of our past, to reflect back to us an image that most would spurn as treasonous.

    Though it cost me my life and I understand so little of what it is I do, I will continue to search through what remains of our history, stored in these pieces of forbidden glass bought at a cost of much gold and even more blood. For our glass is the reason why so many nations, for countless centuries, tried and failed to conquer Alonïa.

    Who would believe that just one hundred years ago a mother would wrap a babe in her arms and sing a lullaby and then carry the memory of that moment, of the soft suckling at her breast and the lilting of her own voice and the sweet smell of new life with her for the rest of her days?

    We live in exile and yet we have lost much more than our freedom. We have lost the knowledge of who we are. I shall face treason for such words but the truth is this: Aiäna, our last Queen and Neära, was not faithless as history has assumed.

    Did she see this future and us in it? Perhaps, but it is not the future in which we now live that concerns me here. It is the future she saw and, dare I say it, saved us from, that must be considered in order to understand the choices she made that led us to this path.

    And as with every true history, that story can only be seen clearly through the glass.

  20. Thanks for your comment, Jules! It looks like I'll have to do a couple of Workshop posts coming up. Should be fun. I'm really glad you're enjoying the blog, and welcome!

  21. "Have you seen into the Dreamer's eyes? Walked your own past, or stepped into the future?

    If you have, how do you know when you awoke? Or, indeed, if you have? How do you know that you aren't trapped inside his dreams, stuck in memories of the future, or reliving what you've done? Is there anything you can point to and say "Here. This is where."?

    No. For even if you remember waking, you can never prove that you aren't still in that room, staring into his sleeping eyes, and watching what will come once you do.

    Now you know why those who seek to know their future always end up insane. It's nothing to do with forbidden knowledge. It's the simple fact that they can't tell if they're still trapped inside their own skulls, or really walking about. Think about it for a while. See how you feel."

  22. First 587 words of "Crossing the Barrier."

    Her parents were arguing. Rohth's voice had dropped so she could only hear a low rumble when he spoke. Her mother's voice did not rise, but it got a bite to it that it did not otherwise have.

    Casal knew they were arguing about her.

    She rolled off her berth on her father's ship and slipped away from the wall; her fingers trailed lightly so she could feel the hum of power beneath it. She remembered her uncle's lessons and reached her mind into the ship's processor, briefly became it, and told it not to let her hear them. Her mind uncoiled gently from the ship and she waited until she no longer heard their murmur on the other side.

    Like a junior member of the crew, she had worked her father’s ship for three months. It was not hunting proper, and Rohth had shaken his head at the lack of action, but they were the guardians. Somebody's ship had to sail the Vardin waters and ensure that all was well and safe. Somebody had to guard the Barrier.

    A commission finally came in, a real hunt—Aysha, her father's helmsman, claimed she could taste adventure on the air, 'less salt, more money'—and then Shiloh met up with them. Casal knew the drill. Swapping parents and lives was easy when both of them were hunters. So she would miss her father's crossing; there was her mother's. But after the first comfortable reunion, tension blossomed and soured between them with nary an explanation to Casal.

    Casal decided not to wait. Her hands itched with the need to hook in to something, and both Aysha and Kidar were pushovers when it came to their equipment. She threw her mind at the padd beside her door, and the door slid aside. She grinned and stepped into the hall.

    "Getting better at that," Kidar commented wryly.

    Casal nearly jumped out of her skin but gritted her teeth against yelling. 'Silent hunters live longer,' her father had told her time and time again. She crossed her arms and scowled at him.

    He chuckled soundlessly, dark hair falling into his eyes with the slight motion. It was wet. He had been on deck. "That's supposed to be a thanks."

    "Mm." She practiced Shiloh's unimpressed look.

    Kidar cocked his head thoughtfully. "It looks better on your mother."

    "Oh you!" Casal scowled and slipped around him through the narrow hallway.

    Belowdecks looked like wood, like all Vardin ships, but the walls burned with a soft radiance that came from a radically different power source than pure electricity. The clomen hummed and called to her, a natural fit with her own mind, the substance that set Vardin apart from Europe and the rest of the world outside.

    "You'll be an excellent cyberpath, one day," Kidar said behind her when she had her foot on the first step aboveboard. He was following her, and that irritated her. "Keep you from getting killed," he offered. Like it was a good thing. Everyone knew Haila lived on the borderlands and were far more likely to die in battle.

    Casal stopped cold. Her face burned. She turned to her mother's helmsman and fixed him with a look borrowed neither from father nor mother. "I am Haila."

    Shadows framed Kidar's face, but she could see that his expression had frozen into silence. "You do know," he said slowly, "that your father is out of Allyón."

    She looked at him. "Yes." Then she turned around and stepped out on the deck.