‘The Plains of Kallanash’: Chapters 1-6

January 10, 2014 The Plains of Kallanash: Chapters 7

For backgound information on the book, click here.


Chapter 1: A Death (Mia)

The hour bells sounded, reverberating through the tower, then faded to silence. Mia and both her husbands were on time. Tella, her co-wife and sister, was late.

Hands folded in her lap, Mia sat perfectly still.

Across the table, Hurst tapped his fingers on the polished wood. Jonnor rose, paced twice round the room, pausing to look through the tower window at the everyday life of the Karning below, then took his seat again. Although they were cousins, the two men were not alike. Hurst’s rough features and plain brown jacket made him look like an ordinary Skirmisher, rather than a Karningholder. Beside him, Jonnor looked like a prince from the old stories, his blue woollen coat enhancing his figure.

Mia forced herself to take her eyes off him. She smoothed away a crease in her russet tunic, then stilled her hands.

“Do you think perhaps we should begin without Tella?” she said.

“Let’s wait a little longer,” Jonnor said. “She’s only just back from the Ring, so she’s bound to be a bit unsettled today.”

“Did she tell you what the Voices wanted?” Hurst asked.

Jonnor’s hands clenched for a moment. “We… discussed it.” Discussed! That was a mild word for the shouting Mia had tried very hard not to listen to. “She wasn’t very forthcoming.”

“I imagine it was just the usual,” Mia said quickly. “She missed her interview last winter, because of the baby.”

“The usual interference, you mean,” Hurst said, one eyebrow raised.

Mia clucked at him, scandalised. “The Voices are there to help us. They have to ask searching questions.”

Hurst grunted, shifting his bad leg to a more comfortable position. “If you say so. I’d just like to know if anything out of the ordinary came up.”

“Gods, Hurst! You do go on. She’d tell us if there was anything to worry about,” Jonnor said, rubbing his eyes. He looked as if he hadn’t slept well, but then he was just back from a difficult skirmish, and that always made him a little tetchy.

Mia wished she could soothe him, but he rarely accepted her help. Still, she knew countless little ways to increase his comfort. She would order his favourite dishes for meat that evening, and have plenty of good northern wine to hand. That always helped him to relax and return to his affable self. ‘Ah, there’s nothing finer life can offer than red meat, red wine and the company of both my wives.’ How often had she heard him say so?

The small bells sounded, and they too faded to silence.

The door flew open, and Mia’s co-wife stood framed in the doorway, her curves clad in shimmering green silk. Read more »


So why post a complete book on your blog?

January 5, 2014 Publishing/marketing 2

Writing a book isn’t easy. ‘The Plains of Kallanash’ took me almost a year to write, and there will be several months’ work to revise and get it into a fit state for possible publication. There will be expenses, too – cover art, and professional editing, for example. And it’s a big book, epic in size as well as scope. So why post the entire book, so that anyone who wants to can read it for free? Why give it away? Read more »


Raising children in ‘The Plains of Kallanash’

January 3, 2014 The Plains of Kallanash 0

Adulthood is achieved at the age of fifteen. At that point, any adult can have sex and have children, married or not (Slaves excepted). Contraceptive herbs are freely available. There is a lot of local variation, though. In the villages, children are a haphazard occurrence, and people rarely marry at all. In and around the Karningholds, matters are rather more orderly, and people tend to marry or form other regular relationships before having children. There are economic considerations, too, so amongst craftsfolk and those setting up businesses, marriage will be considered only when they can afford to raise the children (since men and women both work, supporting a wife isn’t a consideration). There is a certain amount of experimentation, sometimes even before the proper age, and some of it is same-gender (which isn’t an issue). Read more »


Religious hierarchy in ‘The Plains of Kallanash’

December 29, 2013 The Plains of Kallanash 0

Religion is uniform over the whole Karningplain (the area of the plains covered by Karnings, and ruled from the Ring). The Word of the Gods was first brought by people from the northern coast, some four hundred years ago. There were numerous Petty Kingdoms in existence then, and one by one the kings were converted to the new religion (before that there were numerous different faiths). When all the Petty Kingdoms had converted, and the Word of the Gods had been brought even into the Ring, a new calendar was declared. The story opens in calendar year 205 of the Word of the Gods. Read more »


The exposition swingometer

December 9, 2013 The Plains of Kallanash, Writing musings 0

The Brightmoon world is quite complicated, and ‘The Plains of Kallanash’ has an intricate social structure that’s unlike anything in the modern or historical world (as far as I know). It features multiple marriages, with from four to twelve members, which means that many conventional assumptions about the relationships involved simply don’t work.

For instance, it can’t be assumed that sex is an automatic part of the relationship, as it would be between a couple. With two couples, one couple can be sexually active and the other not, one husband may have both wives, or both husbands may share one wife. Even if they are all sexually active, the actual pairings may vary, and can be anything those involved want, from straightforward couples to a complete free-for-all. With more than two couples in the marriage, the combinations can get much more complicated. Anything goes, so long as they all agree to it.

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Getting characters right

November 18, 2013 Current writings, The Plains of Kallanash 0

I’ve received quite a few critiques now for the opening chapters of ‘The Plains of Kallanash’, and they’ve generally been positive. At the low level (line editing), there isn’t much comment; a few word changes, the odd punctuation error, and a few places where a whole or part of a sentence is seen as extraneous. At a slightly higher level, there are some scenes or even sentences which are seen as having no purpose beyond world-building (and for some that’s true, but others are necessary foreshadowing). The main issue is in knowing what exactly is going on. Some people like everything spelled out for them, and some can go with the flow. Knowing just how much to explain is a complicated business, which I will discuss in detail in another post.

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That tricky opening chapter

October 22, 2013 Current writings, The Plains of Kallanash, Writing musings 0

Everyone agrees that the opening to a book is critical. Some say it’s the first five pages, some the first 18 lines (the first page on a typical print book), and some will tell you that you have to grab the reader by the throat within the first sentence, or All is Lost.

Well, to be honest, if a reader is so flighty that they’re going to toss a book based solely on the first line, I’m not sure I want them anyway. The first page is trickier. I can see the case for putting something there that’s so compelling that a reader absolutely has to turn the page. It’s all very well for George R R Martin to stick a forty page prologue up front, full of characters who promptly die, dialogue that is deeply portentous but unintelligable, and events that will possibly be understandable three books later, if you’re lucky. Most of us won’t be given that much leeway by the reader.

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The joy of editing

October 13, 2013 The Plains of Kallanash 1

‘The Plains of Kallanash’ is the first book I ever actually completed (in first draft), so now that it’s had several months to brew while I finished another book, it’s time to begin the process of editing. I’ve always imagined that my writing is pretty clean. I don’t make many errors of grammar, spelling or punctuation, and I edit to some extent as I go along, cleaning up yesterday’s writing before starting a new section, adding in elements needed to the early chapters as the plot develops and occasionally revising whole chunks of text when I reached a lull. So it was shock to reread the opening chapters after a spell away from it.

Who wrote this crap? That was my first thought. It was long-winded and dull. I’d tinkered a bit with the opening paragraph, but it still didn’t work. Then there was a long section that was basically exposition, more telling than showing, just atmospheric backstory, before other characters appeared and things started to happen.

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The Fire Mages is complete (first draft)

October 5, 2013 Current writings, The Fire Mages 0

The first draft of ‘The Fire Mages is now complete. It weighed in at 44 chapters, 151,000 words in the end, and took four and a half months to write, although only 90 days were actual writing days. Average amount written was almost 1,700 words per writing day. This is a big improvement on ‘The Plains of Kallanash’, where I managed only 1,000 words per writing day, and elapsed time was almost a year. Not sure whether I’m getting more productive, or this was an easier book to write. It’s certainly smaller (‘The Plains of Kallanash’ is 220,000 words).

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On villains

October 4, 2013 Brightmoon world, The Fire Mages, The Incursors, The Plains of Kallanash 0

Most stories have a villain of some sort to generate conflict (also known as an antagonist). Beginning writers are advised to give their hero or heroine (protagonist) a goal, and to have an antagonist who works against the protagonist, preventing him or her from reaching their goal. The tension rises as the protagonist struggles to achieve the goal and is knocked back more and more decisively; eventually a point of despair is reached, then a solution is envisaged and there is a final confrontation, during which the antagonist is defeated.

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