Sunday 24 February 2013

Working on Scorpion II

I spent yesterday re-acquainting myself with the first 60-odd pages of Lying with Scorpions, the sequel to Scorpion. Before that, I discussed the plot with my partner, who's incredibly helpful in one way: we strongly disagree on some points, but his opposition helps me carve out and crystallise what I want in the book. He's the anti-foil, the anti-sounding board. I understand other authors have partners who are better at positive plotting, actually suggesting things that fit and solve problems, but I'm not moaning about mine. It does help, and he puts a great deal of thought and common sense into what he suggests, so it's all good, even if very few things he says actually make it into the book.

One of the things I worried about is how to complete Kendras's growth. He's still terribly dependent on his lover/future king, and that does seem like a violation of the Scorpion codex. I have a lot of thoughts about how to spin this, but essentially, it doesn't feel much like a romance at this point. The core relationship will get taxed and stressed to the max, and I see a "dark moment" that's really quite terribly dark. Above all, it's a coming-of-age story of Kendras, who takes the mantle of "officer" and everything else has to be subsumed under it. Not that I don't already know who his successor will be--if it comes to that.

Damn, I do like that world. I could tell you of the Jaishani ambassador or General Graukar, or a mysterious brigand called "Death", but I should really do that on the page. Essentially, I have so much plot that I might end up with two sequels. If that is the case, the point where I saw this book ending makes perfect sense. As my dude pointed out, the ending of the second part in a trilogy is the darkest point, vid The Empire Strikes Back: An unprepared Luke Skywalker challenges Darth Vader and gets his ass handed to him.

In this particular book, I'm examining the nature of empire building versus leadership. Considering I worked academically on Charlemagne and how he screwed over the Bavarians and the Lombards, I have some specific ideas on how that works, which may or may not colour my perception of "Empire". So, yeah. Lying with Scorpions is actually dark. I don't think I'll be quite as pitiless as George RR Martin to my characters, but it certainly doesn't look like an easy ride. I'm hoping it'll be an interesting ride.

Tuesday 19 February 2013

There was a certain man in Russia long ago...

Title courtesy of Turisas, who are rocking my inner ear right now. (The "Rasputin" cover is inspired, but my favourite song is To Holmgard and Beyond).

Much stuff happened in the last two weeks or so. Most dramatically, about two weeks - my date keeping is somewhat blurred - I put out my back. I had the crazy idea of sitting down, and my lumbar vertebrae then showed me what a horrifically bad idea that was. After a day spent in agony and pretty much motionless with pain, deliverance came in the shape of heavy-duty painkillers, in a hundred-pills pack. See, my Kryptonite is aspirin - all painkillers containing that stuff put me into anaphylactic shock. Which means Iboprofen, the weapon of choice, will have me choking as my bronchies shut almost down and go into shock if I'm especially unlucky. (Good I learnt that from taking a very weak aspirin somebody had given me rather than, say, in an emergency). The only chemicals my body can deal with is the whole opiates family. Which makes for a great trip, because that stuff has some interesting effects on my body.

Recollections then become hazy for four days. It *is* entirely possibly to be awake and staring off into space, unable to hold a thought for longer than five minutes and still be perfectly entertained and, dare I say, even happy. Content, in any case. It's all brain chemistry, and mine was messed up, yo. Since my attention span was only a few minutes, I spent that time on twitter and Goodreads. Pointless, but at least I felt less lonely and like I was interacting still.

Three days later, I was able to sit up. Four days, to stand, without my back seizing up despite the painkillers.  Another day before I braved the stairs downstairs, my legs were shaking so bad. Three more days before I reported back into work and attempted to sit for extended periods--to do some work from home. Another few days, and I replaced the heavy painkillers with paracetamol, and a couple more days to cut my dosage even further. Today, I'm "clean" -- my brain's back to working order, and I've even done some writing yesterday. A solid thousand words on my historical novel.

The main benefits of this exercise is, again, it's research. I'll be able to write quite clearly about horrific injuries to my characters based on being unable to move without nearly screaming. That's worth something. I also have a new appreciation for how nice it is to be moving, and how urgently I need to go to the gym. I did check in with a doctor in person after a week in - hobbling along the street, taking 15 minutes for a walk that's normally five - not that I checked my time *snerk* - and she mentioned that the very first thing I should be doing is to lose weight. Health professionals in this country can get quite direct and brutal when it comes to that. Funnily enough, both my dentist and my GP are tiny ladies of Indian extraction who take no prisoners and are scary and somewhat rude.

In any case, the painkillers had the interesting effect to kill all appetite, and I've already lost a solid eight pounds, so I figured I'll keep going and take those ten kilos or so off that I need to lose for an operation I want to have done soonish. Once my back stops being sore, I'm also back on the treadmill.

Writing-wise, very little has happened. When my back put a stop to it, I was about to edit two novels (the Market Garden novel and Scorpion), and wrap up a novella. Well, to edit, I need a clear head and the ability to sit for a couple hours, so nothing has happened in the meantime. What "sitting time" I had recently I spent on "working from home", and afterwards I was quite glad to get away from the computer and my beaten-up chair. (I need a new computer chair, but I can't quite make up my mind to buy an exercise ball - I do like having a little support for my back, although my partner swears by his ball.)

Anyway. The next few weeks will be about catching up again. And in two week's time, LA Witt and her husband show up in London... and then things should get really interesting. I bet we'll manage to be thrown out of a number of places. We're terrible together. Although, whenever we're close together, we end up coming up with cool shit, so gods know what we'll cook up while we're spreading fear and terror and silliness across London. Spending time with LA Witt is like being sixteen again. Not that I was quite that cool as a teenager. Or had quite that cool/crazy/outrageously funny friends. I actually spent my teens being depressed and near-suicidal, so this feels a bit like I'm getting a second shot at being sixteen, only now I have a paycheck and am a hell of a lot more happy.