Archive for the ‘Black Desert’ Category

Excerpt: Black Desert Gets a Plot Shift

May 27, 2009

Black Desert is currently in the middle of a heavy rewrite. Here’s some additional sceneage I was working on today (I’ll post something with a bit more action tomorrow):

____________________

“Mercia’s mother called,” Suha said. She put out the cigarette and stuffed a wad of sen between teeth and cheek. Her teeth were stained bloody crimson from long years of use. Both habits were far healthier substitutes to venom.

“She deposit my fee?” Nyx asked.

“Yeah. Says she’s taking you off her daughter’s case, though.”

“You serious?”

“Says she heard we had some trouble downtown today.”

“Fucking diplomats. She should thank me for keeping her daughter alive.”

“I called the bounty note office like you asked,” Suha said. She started the bakkie and turned them out onto south Raban. From here, Nyx could just see the curved amber spire of the Orrizo in the distance – a monument to anonymous dead men. “There’s no record that anybody put out a note on you or Mercia. That bel dame was definitely rogue. Maybe running black work for some Ras Tiegan government official? Somebody who wanted to get to Mercia’s mother?”

“Then at least I’ve got my right ass cheek covered,” Nyx said. The left, she wasn’t so sure about.

Eshe hopped up and down in his seat. Nyx wondered if she was ever that giddy at fourteen. “Does this mean we’re going to the bel dame office?”

“It means I’m going to the bel dame office,” Nyx said. She palmed some of Suha’s sen.

“Thought you made a habit of running black work back when you were a bel dame,” Suha said. “Why do you care so much about turning her in? Burn the head and be done with it.”

“I don’t generally mind folks running around picking up illegal bounties,” Nyx said, “but she made a mistake.”

“And what was that?” Suha said.

“She tried to kill me.”

Eshe snickered.

“You sure they’ll let you in there?” Suha said.

“We’ll find out.”

The bel dame reclamation office in Mushtallah was at the base of the city’s sixth hill, known to many as Bloodmount. Particularly pious Nasheenians paid exorbitant prices to take a brief, musty tour of the interior of the derelict that made up the center of the hill. Most of the hills of Mushtallah were artificial. Their rotting cores were made up of old refugee ships, derelicts from the mass exodus from the moons back at the beginning of the world. Nyx had never been down there – she didn’t much care what came before her – but she heard most of it was sealed off anyway. What was left was just a sterile tangle of old metal, bug secretions, and bone dust.

As they came around Palace Hill, Bloodmount came into view. At the height of the hill, a single tower gleamed a burnished copper color. That was the only visible part of the ship above ground, a twisted metal spire where every bel dame took her oath to uphold the old laws of blood debt.

“You sure you want to do this today?” Suha muttered, and spit sen out the open window.

Nyx stared out at the spire. The bel dame training schools, residences, and reclamation office ringed the base of the hill. From here, she couldn’t see the organic filter that protected the hill, but she’d been through it enough to know that it was the most powerful one in Nasheen. Hard to do, with Palace Hill just up the street. The inner filters were more precise, and more deadly. She didn’t figure she’d get much past the first filter on this little jaunt.

Suha drove to the big, burst-scarred main gate at the base of the hill. This neighborhood was mostly boxing gyms and cheap eateries. There were a few shabby text stores and some bodegas. Nyx stepped out of the bakkie and looked up in the tenement windows above the shops. Teenage girls – bel dame hopefuls and university students – sat around on the tiny balconies. High pitched laughter trickled out over the street. She caught a whiff of marijuana, opium, and the distinctive milky stink of too many teenage women. A couple of leggy girls stood on the stoop of a bodega across from the bakkie. They smoked clove and marijuana cigarettes and wore calf-length burnouses and looked Nyx over with heavy-lidded eyes.

“Can I come?” Eshe asked, leaning out the window. A couple of passing girls turned at his voice and stared outright. One of them stumbled. Her companion shrieked with laughter.

Nyx pushed his head back into the bakkie. “Stay with Suha. This isn’t a good place for boys.”

“Nyx –“

“You heard me. I’ll lose com with you once I’m inside the filter,” Nyx told Suha. “I’m not back in two hours, you file a report with the Order Keepers.” Not that it would do much good. Bel dames considered themselves autonomous. How they dealt with Nyx and her news was no business of the Queen’s, so far as they were concerned – even if Nyx hadn’t been one of their number in over a decade. At least if someone filed a report her absence would be noted.

Nyx motioned for Suha to pop the trunk. She dug the burnous-wrapped bel dame’s head out of the back and slung it over her shoulder. The burnous had eaten most of the blood, but it was stained a clotted amber brown.

She leaned into the driver’s side window and nodded to the side street. “There’s a good Ras Tiegan place two streets over called the Montrouge. Get the kid a soda and some curried dog.”

Eshe grimaced. “Tonight’s fight night.”

“I haven’t forgotten,” Nyx said. “Save room for rotis and beer, all right? I might be a bit.”

She wanted to pat his head, but he’d been too old for that for a long time. She snorted. Kids belonged at the coast. Nobody else knew what to do with them. She’d always thought it’d get easier as he got older. But it just got more awkward. Some days she wished he’d stayed eight years old forever.

“You watch yourself in there,” Suha said.

“You watch yourself out here,” Nyx said, and waved. She walked up to the front gate, and turned to watch Suha drive back out onto the main street.

There was a young woman at the gate, just a kid, maybe twenty. Couldn’t have served a day at the front. She had clear skin and clear, shiny eyes. Definitely not a day at the front.

“Here to report a rogue bel dame,” Nyx said.

“You got identification?” the woman said. Nyx held out her hand.

The woman pricked Nyx’s finger and smeared the blood on her desktop slide.

Nyx watched her reaction as the file came up. But the girl barely blinked. She raised her head.

“You’ve got level one clearance. You can go as far as the reclamation office without being cleaned.” She punched open the gate.

Nyx slipped inside. The gate clanged behind her. Old metal, the sort of stuff that came off derelicts. She walked across the courtyard, past the bakkie barns. A couple of tissue mechanics raised their heads as she passed.

The bounty reclamation office was a single-story building of amber stone. Most of the original arches had been whittled away by small arms fire, and what remained had been badly reconstructed. Only half of the bel dame oath was visible. The complete line, the heart of the bel dame oath, was “My life for a thousand.” All that was visible above the office was “My life.” Nyx thought that somehow appropriate, knowing what she did about bel dames.

She hesitated at the stoop. It’d been awhile since she crossed one of these thresholds.

“Well, shit,” she said aloud, and hauled the bel dame’s head into the office.

Advertisements

Back to the Trenches

October 8, 2008

Just about done with the first pass on Black Desert line edits. Not actually typing them in, mind, just bleeding over the manuscript, which is a mess (yes, that sounds messy, doesn’t it?). There’s this very obvious chunk of the book where I’m just dithering away until I can come up with the ending (ie get Nyx back in the picture), and I cut out a whole chapter last night to help get over that long, boring pre-ending. I was feeling pretty pessimistic about the whole bloody thing until I pushed past that lull. Then Nyx shows back up, and the book starts again. I’m really going to need to work on that. The secondary characters should be strong enough to carry the book for four chapters, and right now, they aren’t. Things which must be fixt….

In other news, I’m thinking about writing some short fiction again. I think some of my struggle is just that I’ve been spending so long working in one world, in one medium. I love writing novels, and I love this world, but I’ve been working on bel dame novels, in one way or another, since 2003.

How time flies.

The Cutting Will Continue Until the Book Improves

September 8, 2008

I’m not much for books that ramble. Some may argue about the short attention span of the internet age, but really, look back at something like Zelazny’s Amber books, or the pre-90s Stephen King novels:

They’re pretty short.

They are not 1500 page epics. They do not hem and haw and circle and backtrack and spend 10 pages talking about underwater farming in Australasia while the protagonist repeatedly tugs on her braid. Mainly, this is because folks were writing on typewriters. I’m also thinking short books sold better. These days, you pay $30 for a hardcover, and goddammit, you want 900 pages, because, seriously, $30 for a hardcover??

I haven’t been able to get through Hobb’s sequels to the Assassin books because Fool’s Errand just goes on and on and on. It’s two characters having long conversations about their bitter lives and regrets – this is how the book opens! It’s like a hundred pages of the author trying to figure out what the characters are supposed to do during this book, and summing up the boring 15 years of their lives between this book and the last, which I really, really doubt is ultimately relevant to the climax of the novel.

I don’t write like this.

Usually.

I mean, yeah, OK, I write first drafts like this. They are long, and wind-filled, and people are always drinking tea (I was delighted when I realized that they actually had a high tea in my fictional Tirhan. Nobody in Nasheen in the last book actually sat around and drank tea. You have no idea how many stupid, pointless scenes this eliminated in GW. I had to be careful about my tea scenes in BD).

When I’m writing a first draft, I’m generally bouncing around trying to figure out where the characters are going to go, and – if they’re new – what the hell they’re about.

So there are these long, pointless passages about trauma and heartache and growing up in a farming community at the edge of the desert, and the economics of the Bashinda River. And when I revise a book, the first thing I do is say, “OK, do the economics of the Bashinda River have anything to do with this plot? No? Cut it out.” And out it goes.

It is incredibly satisfying, after you murder the first few darling paragraphs, to watch paragraph after boring, clunky paragraph recede into the wastewater that was your first draft.

Ultimately, I’d like to cut about 10K-15, which would get this back to 95K at the most. 95K feels like about the right length for the bel dame books. I can’t tell you why that is, but it is.

Different books tend to have different lengths and styles that just feel more appropriate. I’ve had to go back and chop up a lot of the long sentences and rambling paragraphs I wrote in the first draft, too. Nyx books are short sentences books. Curt, snappy dialogue. Bleeding roaches. Sand-caked wrinkles. Calloused feet. And, of course, heads getting chopped off.

And revision time is when you get to make sure all the shit that was supposed to be there is there. And all the shit that’s just shit… well, that’s what you chop out.

Murder Your Darlings, or: Move it or Lose It

September 4, 2008

I hate cutting out cool characters who it turns out you just don’t need for the book. One of my walk on characters from GW got a fairly lengthy scene in BD in a chapter that, well, doesn’t really need her so much anymore (she doesn’t show up later in the book, so doing a lengthy intro only to have her disappear seems silly). It’s such as shame, really, because then all this has to go:

“Sometimes Nyx invited Husayn to drive up with them. Nyx had met Husayn at the magicians’ gym in Mushtallah back when Nyx was training as a boxer and bel dame, sometime after Nyx had been recalled from the front and reconstituted. Husayn was a stocky old fighter with a mashed-in pulp of a nose. Her left eye drooped a little, and was going a tad misty. She’d lost her peripheral vision in that eye at thirty, and now, at fifty, she didn’t see much out of it at all….

Nyx and Husayn sat out on the hilltop the morning after Nyx sent Mercia home with a bellyful of buni-flavored rum. The blazing orange disk of the primary star had just swallowed the blue sun, and Eshe was lying prostrate on a prayer rug on the other side of the bakkie, his fingertips stretched toward the base of an old thorn tree that clawed at the sky with barren, charred branches.”

Eh, it wasn’t doing much anyway.

Fun with Revisions

September 4, 2008

I seemed to have some confusion about whether or not Nyx’s kid clerk was a Ras Tiegan refugee, a half breed orphan, or a full blooded Nasheenian from the coast whose mother was a career breeder.

All of these conflicting historical details appeared within the same 12-page spread.

Teheran

September 3, 2008

In order to help me with some of my lazy city and dwelling descriptions in the fictional country of Tirhan (capital, Shirhazi), I’ve been browsing photos of the real (city of) Teheran today, and this is all I have to say about that:

I’d do just about anything to live in Teheran for a year.

Fuck our fucking governments and their inability to get the along.

And That, Ladies and Gentlemen, is What We Call a Draft

September 2, 2008

A very long and bloated draft, but a fucking draft nonetheless.

I think I may actually be missing half an Inaya chapter somewhere, but I’m too tired to look. I’ll save that for the rewrite.

And now I get to turn off The Noose, which has been on repeat for the last 40 minutes.

P.S. I am so having a beer right now.

Lunch Break

September 1, 2008

I’m not sure how I’m going to finish this, but I’m going to finish it, dammit.

The Bitch is Back in Town

September 1, 2008

And that, my friends, is what happens when Nyx finally shows back up.

Damn, that was rough going for awhile.

I’m thinking it may end up running a tad long. Will print out what I’ve got tomorrow, but I think I’m through the worst of it.

Problem

September 1, 2008

The problem is, the book stops when Nyx is out of commission. These people can’t slap their asses with both hands without her. Or, rather, there doesn’t appear to be any narrative without her.

Once I push past this part, it’s smooth sailing (which is why I skipped ahead and wrote those parts already), but this whole Nyx being out of the picture thing just fucks up the whole book.

I’m going to need to do a lot of revision once I have a draft. But I guess that was expected. Still.

I fucking hate this book, haven’t I mentioned that enough times yet?

Got another 300 words. I need at least a thousand before I’m allowed to sleep tonight. That leaves me tomorrow to print it out and pull the last of it together.

I’m going to need more pancakes for this in the morning, seriously.

When this fucking book is done I will have seriously earned that month of WoW reward.