Character Profile: Janna

JannaThis character has given me the most trouble, which might be why I’ve saved her for last. Not that she’s the last character I’ll ever profile, but she’s the last of those with a pov from Book one. OMG I need a title so bad!

All the trouble I’ve had really isn’t poor Janna’s fault. She’s by far the sweetest of my characters and very easy to get along with. It’s figuring out exactly what to do with her that’s the problem.

From the beginnings of this story’s conception, it was always very important to me to have the commonfolk represented in some way. This turned out to be easier said than done. It’s relatively easy to write characters that have a measure of control over their own destinies. People like Kendryk and Teodora control not only their own lives, but the lives of thousands besides. Even Braeden and Arian are to a great extent in charge of their own destinies. This was not true of the vast majority of people during the Thirty Yeas War, or throughout history, for that matter. And while the war did wreak havoc among the aristocracy and soldiers were sacrificed by the thousands without a second thought, it was the average person who paid the heaviest price. Something like a half to three-quarters of the population of Central Europe died of starvation, exposure, plague and war-related violence in that thirty-year period.

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Character Profile: Braeden

I recently realized that I’ve written character profiles for characters that don’t have a POV. Or at least they don’t right now. I’m having serious second thoughts about Teodora as usual, the troublesome bitch. But anyway, I thought I’d get back to the main people. Kendryk and Gwynneth represent one side of this conflict, while Braeden represents the other. He’s a mercenary currently fighting for Empress Teodora. He’d not a big fan, but soldiers for hire don’t have to like their employers; they just have to get paid.

Bhussarraeden has had a difficult and somewhat unusual background that I can’t really give away right now, but suffice it to say, he had some good luck making friends and is currently a high-ranking officer and the right-hand man of Prince Novitny, the commander of the Sanova Hussars. I was forced to create the Sanova Hussars when my research reminded me of the famous Winged Hussars of Poland and Hungary, some of the most effective heavy cavalry of the early modern period.

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First Page Review Blog-hop

This post is for the October First Page Review Blog-hop, though anyone who shows up here is more than welcome to comment.  This is how it works: post the first 1,000 pages of something you’ve written or are currently working on, then sign up on this page, linking to the post. Then visit others on the list, letting them know what you think. Would you keep reading? What worked? Didn’t work? Any feedback is welcome. I’ve rewritten this so many times I don’t know if it makes any sense at all. Thanks!

Here’s the first 2/3 of of the prologue of my as yet untitled historical fantasy:

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Character Profile: Arian

Arian Orland, Count of Hornfels, is an ambiguous character. Well, he’s actually pretty bad, but working in service of the good at least some of the time. Since he’s loosely based on Christian of Brunswick, he wasn’t even going to figure in the first book. But then I thought he was just too fun a character to leave out, and he might as well start stirring up some trouble early.

officers2Like Christian, Arian represents a type that figured prominently in the Thirty Years War. These types thrive on chaos and tend to rise to the top in just about any protracted violent conflict. If there’s no conflict available locally, they start something, hire themselves out in other countries, or end up being put away for life. I would hesitate to call them complete sociopaths, but only because I’m not qualified. And since I am Arian’s creator, I believe I shall give him a heart, but bury it pretty deeply. So deeply in fact that we may never know it exists. *cue evil laughter*

Arian is the younger child of the Duke of Kaltental, one of the most powerful men in Terragand, right under Prince Kendryk in rank. Arian’s older sister will inherit the duchy, so he has to find a vocation. He takes to the military rather naturally, and spends most of his twenties fighting in a neighboring country that’s been at war for decades. He’s good at fighting, and enjoys the military enough that he’d like to make it a career. He’s not fond of taking orders, though, so his plan is to eventually lead his own mercenary force.

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Character Profile: Teodora

We’ve given the good guys their due; now it’s time for the more villainous. Since Ferdinand II was the last historical figure discussed, it stands to reason that I’ve based a character on him. Of course, its a given that whatever Kendryk does, he’s eventually going to run afoul of the powers that be.teodoraTeodora Inferrara presides over a vast, but shaky empire. It’s been at war with a huge eastern neighbor for nearly a hundred years, and is based on a feudal system that isn’t conducive to centralized power, which she would dearly love. A niece of the late Emperor, her succession was not a given. It doesn’t help that Teodora’s uncle died suddenly, and some would say, under suspicious circumstances. She was in a convenient location to take power when it happened, shutting out a cousin who had an equally legitimate claim. Naturally, he will be a thorn in her side. One of many, as it turns out.

Though not a nice person, Teodora isn’t completely evil. Or maybe she’s not really evil at all. She’s realistic about the Empire’s weakened state, and knows that it will take an extremely competent and resolute ruler to restore it to its former glory. She’s quite capable and objectively speaking, probably is the best person for the job. Her biggest problem is that she is completely devoid of diplomatic skills. She makes one enemy after another when she really can’t afford to have so many.  She’s also hot-headed and ruthless, which is a bad combination for those who cross her.

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Character Profile: Gwynneth

Even though some of my female characters are in the process of being relegated to second-banana, at least in terms of point of view, there are still some pretty important girls in this story. Kendryk might be the big mover and shaker, but without his wife, he might never have done anything very exciting.GwynnethAs you might have guessed based on previous posts, Gwynneth Roussay is also based on a real person: Elizabeth Stuart, Queen of Bohemia. Like Elizabeth, Gwynneth is pretty impressive in her own right. The second child of King Andres Roussay of Norovaea, Gwynneth is second in line for the throne and is groomed to rule from the moment she’s born. She receives a top-notch formal education and shines at politics and philosophy.

Charming and extroverted, she’s got a natural politician’s personality, and soaks up everything she observes at her father’s court. It’s no secret that many think she’d make a better king than her older brother  Gwynneth of course, thinks so too, but she’d never say it.

From an early age, she’s extremely good at getting her way. As she gets older, some consider her manipulative, but she’s always so nice that it’s hard to hold it against her. In the end, those who give in to her end up feeling flattered by the attention more than anything else.

By the time she’s sixteen, she’s had a lot of practice dealing with lovelorn young men and jealous girls. When a steady stream of royal suitors appear at her father’s court, she knows just how to handle them. The unsuitable- that is, anyone who isn’t a king, or a potential king- are sent on their way feeling sad or even heartbroken, but never offended. She knows better than to upset potential future allies, wherever she ends up.

Her parents are anxious to marry her to the young and powerful king of Estenor, who finds her charming, but is just old and wise enough to realize that she’ll be difficult for him to manage. While he’s wondering if she’s worth it, Kendryk Bernotas of Terragand arrives. Finally ruling in his own right, the young prince is anxious to assure his line of succession. He’s very willing to make a marriage of convenience, but he’s as smitten with Gwynneth as everyone else is. What’s different this time is that she’s just as taken with him.

The King and Queen like Kendryk, but don’t consider him quite good enough. Gwynneth thinks he has huge potential, though, in addition to being all kinds of adorable. He might not be a king, but he’s the sole ruler of the largest state in Kronland, and is related to every monarch on the continent. Norovaea has long felt that Kronland needs to break away from the ancient, crumbling Inferrara Empire, and Gwynneth sees Kendryk as the perfect leader in any future revolution, peaceful or otherwise. In addition, if something happened to her older brother and she found herself Queen of Norovaea someday, Terragand would be an excellent addition to help round out domination of the northern part of the continent.

It doesn’t take Gwynneth very long to get her parents to see things her way, and she and Kendryk are soon married. Her first task is to provide him with heirs, and she promptly gives him three- a girl and two boys. Things are great for them, but she’s always keeping an eye out for an opportunity to improve Terragand- and Kendryk’s- position. That opportunity will appear very soon.

Writing and Geography

I’m having a bit of a challenge getting into the swing of things post-July, as you might have noticed. I have all of these WORDS! My first task was to deal with my pacing and pov issues and reorganize what I had written so far. Here’s what I did:

1. I made a timeline for my whole entire plot. It took a long time, but at least now I know what happens and when. I spent a lot of time calculating fake distances, as in “how far is it from fake Dresden to fake Vienna? Or from Salzburg to Frankfurt? Why can’t I go through Prague? And how long does it take to send a message between these places? Or travel on foot/horseback/wagon/as undernourished refugee?” Because it’s hard to get an army to march to your rescue when they are 60 days march away and your opponent is only ten. Granted, it’s a fake world, but I just can’t get over it. I need to know where stuff really is.

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2. Based on the timeline, I wrote out the whole plot outline in narrative form. It was about 5000 words in the end, and I loved it. It all made sense. I could get to the end and it still made sense! And, free of so many different and restrictive povs, I can either not worry about it right now, or the problem solves itself, depending on what’s going on.

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90,607 Words! Now What?

As some of you might already know, I reached my Camp NaNoWriMo goal a day early. It went surprisingly well. In spite of my earlier agonizing, I went ahead with the next few chapters as if I’d already rewritten everything before. It involved a bit of time travel for a few characters, but they’ll figure it out.

So now, I have about 133,000 words of total manuscript and I’m about 65 percent done. Fortunately, I now know my way to the end of the story. That was the best part of the whole experience. I already had a sneaking suspicion that I might be able to create a plot, and doing this confirmed I can even manage it on the fly. I had a few very bad moments of “Argh! This isn’t working!” but I just kept writing until something viable popped into my brain.

I also realized I won’t have to axe Janna altogether; she’ll just join my other female characters in their secondary roles. I just finished Sarah Micklem’s fantastic Firethorn, which made me realize that the lowliest of the low can indeed make things happen in her own way. Camp followers represent! Now I just have to figure out how to write that beautifully. Oh, and stop comparing myself to her, and everyone else. (see Ten Commandments).

Next on the agenda is a complete reorganization before I continue to the end. I’m hoping it won’t take more than a few days. I am very grateful for Scrivener. Otherwise, I’d be doing this on actual 3 x 5 cards!

Screenshot 2014-08-02 00.24.12Once I’ve determined what needs to be rewritten and how, I’ll probably do that before writing anything new. With any luck at all, I’ll have a chapter or two ready to go to beta readers before all the leaves dry up and blow away.

So Many Words, So Many Problems

typewriter-1386501-mWell, I’m in the final stretches of Camp NaNoWriMo. From a production standpoint, it’s been a success. I’ve got over 81,000 words so far and am on track to get to my goal of 90,000 by month end without killing myself (probably).. You can see my stats here.I will have about 28 very lengthy chapters, many of which I may never use, hopefully bringing my ultimate wordcount somewhere in the neighborhood of War and Peace

Aside from pure volume however, it’s been a mixed bag. I’ve learned a few things:

  • First of all, writing this fast is not optimal for me. I do like to write a first draft pretty quickly- it doesn’t seem to do me any good to agonize over every word- but I like a lot more preparation before I sit down to write my daily words. I like to read over and edit what I did the day before, maybe read a few previous chapters that are pertinent, and maybe journal a bit about what I’m planning. Having to crank out 3,000 words each and every day was just enough that I couldn’t do it as part of my regular routine. 

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Character Profile: Kendryk

It’s no big secret that a few (Ok, four out of six) of my main characters are based on actual historical figures. I went overboard with my protagonist, and based him on not one, but two real people, both of them coincidentally named Frederick.

A Van Dyck portrait of Prince Karl Ludwig, Frederick & Elizabeth's eldest son
A Van Dyck portrait of Prince Karl Ludwig, Frederick & Elizabeth’s eldest son

I started by basing Kendryk Bernotas, Prince of Terragand on Frederick V, Elector Palatine. Kendryk is pretty much exactly like him, but better. And cuter. However, Kendryk is not a Mary Sue, I swear! He starts out pretty perfect, but he’s not. Very.

As my plotting progressed, I found myself drawing more and more on the life and actions of the other Frederick, the Wise, Elector of Saxony. This guy died nearly a hundred years before the beginning of the Thirty Years War, but was instrumental in helping Martin Luther survive and flourish. Since I decided to compress those hundred years, it all worked out. Continue reading