Good News, Bad News, and A Call for Beta Readers

January 20th, 2014

So it’s been a while. I’m not even going to check to see how long, exactly, so let’s just leave it at ‘a while’.

There’s good news and bad news. The good news is that I’m writing again on a regular basis. For the last couple of months, I’ve been writing a bit every day, and I’m happy to say it has become habit. Hooray! Better late than never.

The bad news is, I’ve decided to give up on editing, and rewrite the book from the start. There are a few reasons for this. First and foremost, the voice was just bad. Dialog? Not horrible. Action scenes? Okay. Everything else? Awful. My first person voice tends to be okay (see Tarvin’s story. I still think that’s the best voice I’ve done), but when it comes to third person, I have trouble. And this book has too much going on in too many places to be first person. I think I’ve got a better voice going now, but all the old stuff needs to be tossed.

Second, I’ve changed the story around a bit, which required a few new scenes to be written anyway, and a number of changes in already existing scenes. So a lot of stuff would need to be rewritten anyway.

And third, the whole pacing of the book needed fixing. As a direct result of not being happy with any scenes that weren’t dialog or action, I tended to avoid the slower scenes, which gave the book a breakneck pace. I covered, in 100,000 words, three times as much story as I have planned out for a single book now. So this time through, I’m taking the time to add a little more detail and character development.

The book will be better for it! Promise!

By the way, due to minor plot changes, Isem’s story is no longer accurate. I should really take it down. Loral’s story is (probably|maybe|possibly) being rewritten from a third person point of view, and will likely have some minor changes made to it as well. Normally, I would just introduce her when Isem runs into her, but that happens too late in the story to introduce a main character, so I’ll probably just fit a few “Loral” chapters in amongst the Isem ones so she gets a bit of an introduction early on.

Speaking of when the two of them meet, that’s just about where I am in the story right now. Chapter 8, though that’s without the Loral chapters. Probably closer to Chapter 15 if the Loral chapters get in there.

Anyway, that sorta brings me to my final reason for posting, and that is: I’m looking for a beta reader or two. It would involve reading first drafts in Google Docs and making comments on anything that needs improving. Rewards include being able to read the book before anyone else, and my permission to digitally yell at me and tell me all the things I did wrong.

That last point alone should secure all the volunteers I need.

If you’re interested, email me at beta@kaellar.com . I reserve the right to disable that email address should the sudden influx of spam become too great to handle.

One last point – the website has been moved to stories.kaellar.com for reasons that are probably unnecessary, but include: future-proofing against stories that don’t take place on Osterin – I have another two or three worlds lined up that I plan to put stories on here for. Also, I like the name better.

Everything should still be working on the old site. The two names actually just point to the same place anyway, and you likely won’t notice a difference when you’re silently directed to the new site. But just in case you notice a different address in your address bar…

I think that’s everything for now. Hopefully the next update won’t be quite so far off.

Language

February 28th, 2012

There are three languages spoken in the world of Osterin, some more common than others. The first is the one that’s spoken pretty much everywhere, particularly in the west. The main reason for its widespread use is the Illusionist network, which has been around since the language was developed. Because messages could be sent relatively easily and inexpensively between remote locations, different regions didn’t really have a chance to develop their own language.

There are slightly different dialects, particularly in Lianti, where the Illusionist network is banned from operation. They still speak the same language, but have an accent different from those in Attarnon. You’ll see this when Isem arrives in Lianti.

The second language is the original language of the Western people. It is primarily based on symbols, where each symbol represents a word – usually a noun. The reason this language fell out of use is its difficulty in representing complex thoughts. In ancient western civilization – wild as it was – there was no need for such abstract things, but as they developed into a more peaceful nation, they needed a better language, and adopted one based on the Eastern language. There are very few who still speak the old Western language, other than the Northmen.

The old Eastern language is spoken more commonly in the East, particularly in Aridia, where they have had less contact with the West. However, it is so similar to the common language in the West that the two can almost be used interchangeably Рthink American English vs. British English. There were never any regional dialects in the East Рthe culture is far too organized to allow such a degradation of their language.

 

Editing progress: slow, but moving. Current scene I’m working on is a new one – Isem is summoned to see the leader of the Asylum, who tells him some important things.

Naming Conventions

January 9th, 2012

Names in Osterin have a tendency to follow certain conventions. There are a few names that deviate from the rules, but most of them will fall within the following parameters:

Male names contain more hard or sharp sounds like K, T, or B, and will always (usually) end in a consonant. Examples: Isem, Tomat, Armel, Bayett, Tarvin, Timal, Arlin, Jordel, Toril, etc.

Female names tend to be softer, and will usually end in a vowel. There are more exceptions to this rule (Loral, Millian, Meris) than there are to the male name rule. Examples: Angeli, Tori, Sasha, Sera, Rienna, Reyna, Shirina, etc.

While first names are similar in both the Eastern and Western nations, last names still have some differences. Families originally from the west will have names that consist of several (usually three) distinct syllables and usually end in an A or U. Examples: Tori Bamaru, Armel Nairobu, Nik Subata.

Last names of families from the east are more likely to end in a consonant, most likely an N, and are usually two syllables. Examples: Bayett Laysen, Angeli Roinen, Loral Feynan.

 

Editing progress: Not much over the holidays, though I have organized what needs to be done. There are currently 41 scenes that need more significant revisions (adding important bits or changing some details), 27 that need minor changes (adding tension or rewriting bits that don’t flow well), and 5 new scenes to write.

Money

December 19th, 2011

In Osterin, all transactions are based on a bartering system. In the east, mostly Aridia, this is more of a literal bartering system, where some good or service is directly exchanged for another. This also takes place in some places in Lianti. However, in Attarnon, most bartering takes place with a coin system.

The coins, at their simplest, are pieces of metal with a value and a symbol stamped into them. The symbol serves an important function – it names the smith who determined the value of the coin. If the coin is determined to be counterfeit in some way, such as being a bit of iron plated in gold, or if the stamped value is inaccurate, the smith can be prosecuted under the law – or, occasionally, outside of the law, depending on who his coins affect. As such, smiths guard their stamps very closely.

Some smith symbols are recognized instantly across most of Attarnon, and the coins are accepted at face value with no questions asked, since the smith has proven himself trustworthy. Unknown smith symbols are more likely to be examined closely by the merchant accepting them.

There are several methods that have been devised to cheat the system, though none of them are in widespread use. The first involves shaving small pieces off the coins, leaving the symbol and the value intact, but the coin a little lighter. This is time consuming, however, and is not worth the time is takes for the little value it provides, except perhaps for the higher value coins. Another tactic that has been attempted is to reproduce a certain smith’s mark, either to pass off counterfeit coins, or to discredit a smith. However, smith symbols are complex and difficult to reproduce, and a merchant’s eyes are sharp.

The values of coins are determined by the value of the metal used to craft them. Iron coins, called ferits, are the cheapest. These are often not even stamped, as their value is so low that there would be no sense in counterfeiting them. Copper is next, and are called cuvers. It takes 45 ferits to equal the value of a single cuver. Steel coins are called dachals, and are the most common coin found in Attarnon. A dachal is worth 20 cuvers. Next is silver, common among high-priced transactions. These coins are called argets, and are worth 20 dachals. Last, and worth 20 argets each, are the aurits, made of gold. These are extremely rare, and only a few smiths are known to even make them.

 

Editing update: Finished that last scene, though it may still need a bit of tweaking. Made a list of all the edits that need to be done, and working through that. Don’t expect much from the next couple weeks. Christmas and all.

A Tour of Attarnon

December 6th, 2011

This tour will start on the west coast. Here you will find cliffs running nearly the entire length of the shoreline, with a vertical drop that can reach up to 100 feet at points. These cliffs are surprisingly smooth, as though a massive knife simply sliced off the edge of the continent. There are few settlements along this edge, except where the occasional river runs by and drops off the edge into the ocean.

Moving north, the shoreline gradually returns to beaches, but it also gets colder. By the time the shore is back to normal, the ground is covered in snow and ice nearly year-round. Somewhere around this point, the Northlands begin. Along Attarnon’s northern border are a series of towers, each one within Illusionist messaging distance of the next two on each side. This is the official border line, and squadrons of Quis and Madmen man these towers in rotating shifts to repel Northman raids. No roads extend beyond this point, and only a fool would journey there. Between the cold and the roving bands of Northmen, the chance of survival is slim at best.

To the south, Attarnon shares a once-violent border with Lianti, who split off into their own country some time ago. While there were – and still occasionally are – some minor border skirmishes, the war was not particularly bloody, for the most part. At the time, Attarnon did not have the control of their Madmen that they now do, nor the support of the Quis. By the time Attarnon became as powerful as they now are, public opinion no longer supported a war, and Lianti became a hesitant trading partner. Some battle sites were lost, and the bodies are still out there somewhere.

To the east are the Mountains, though Attarnon’s border ends somewhere in the foothills. Towns here tend to be rougher than elsewhere, particularly in the southeast. This is likely due to the ease with which criminal types can disappear into the mountains should they be pursued. Closer to the northern border, a large river runs from the mountains and all the way through the country, passing the capital city of Insen and eventually emptying into the ocean. This is a major trade route between the mountain kingdom and Attarnon.

Central Attarnon is forested. Almost entirely, except where the trees have been cut down to build villages, or burned down in the occasional forest fire. The trees are mixed, with a higher concentration of coniferous trees to the north, and more deciduous trees to the south. Slightly rolling hills cover the landscape. The city of Insen was built near the river, about two span’s march from the mountains, slightly more north than south. It sits on a large hill, with walls that reach out of the ground itself to embrace the buildings within. The King’s palace sits on the peak of the hill, and the Asylum is nearby, but closer to the river.

In total, it would take somewhere around 6 to 8 span to walk from the western border of Attarnon to the eastern, depending on walking speed and the number of hours a day spent walking. On a good Attarnon horse, it could be as little as a single span, whereas with a Druid-bred Ganyan horse, it could take as little as two days. From north to south would be about 20% less.

 

Editing update: planning on finishing up that scene today, then we’ll see what I need to do with the Asylum scenes.

Law Enforcement

November 28th, 2011

In Attarnon, there is a set of laws that are to be followed by all citizens. In order to ensure that these laws are followed – and to employ the soldiers since they don’t have a war to fight – a system of Law Enforcement Officers was formed by the King of Attarnon shortly after Lianti split away and formed their own country.

In recent years – since the War of Magic, if that can be considered recent – the LEOs have been a sort of counter to the Quis, who are often viewed as holding too much power over the country. Any non-magical disturbance is investigated by the LEOs, and often magic-related crimes as well, provided they bring a Qui with them.

Officially, the LEOs have more power than the Quis, though either one can arrest the other if they have cause. If necessary, a LEO can act as executioner, though this is frowned upon. There is no official court system. In theory, criminals are supposed to be brought before the King, but in reality this is far too impractical for all but the most serious of crimes. Most villages handle their own criminals.

Each village has at least one LEO, with most having three or four. The LEO in charge will be the one who usually passes judgment. A summary of these judgments will be passed up to the King to be read and approved. If the judgments are not satisfactory, disciplinary action will be taken. In theory, at least.

LEOs are sometimes called Lions. This is not usually taken as an offensive remark, and is used as slang between officers, or in many other non-official situations. The term ‘cat’, however, is meant to be offensive, and is not suggested to be used within hearing range of a LEO.

 

Edits update: About two lines since last week. There are a couple things I need to fit into this scene, and I’m figuring out how to do so.

Magic in Society

November 21st, 2011

Many types of magic have been deeply integrated into Attarnon society. For example:

Druids – Woodworking, mostly. A druid can control the shape a tree grows into, and can form intricate shapes from the wood. In addition, Druid-grown wood doesn’t suffer from knots or other imperfections, and so is highly valued. A lesser known use for Druids is modifying and breeding animals for specific traits, though this requires techniques only known in Ganyan, which are a closely held secret. Darill horses are sought after for this reason.

Elementalists – Usually work with fire – for example, in a forge – or with stone. Elementalist stonework is common in Ganyan, with stone spires rising into the sky. In Attarnon, without the use of Ratans, the most complicated stonework done has been the Asylum wall – a solid, perfectly polished chunk of stone, four feet thick and nearly twenty feet high, that surrounds the entire grounds. Less commonly, Elementalists are asked to work with water or air, to create wells or lift heavy objects.

Warders – Warder-wrought steel is incredibly intricate, due to the Warder’s ability to mould the metal with his hands directly, rather than requiring a hammer. With the assistance of an Elementalist, the metal can easily be heated to molten or near-molten levels, at which point the Warder, immune to the heat, can easily shape the metal as if it were clay. Other uses of Warder include bodyguards and Wards against magic for the most paranoid.

Necromancers – A Necromancer can usually be found on the teams of law enforcement officials working on murder cases. If they’re lucky, the spirit of the deceased will still be around for the Necromancer to speak with, or even revive, depending on the injury. Another use is in the arenas where warriors fight to the death and are raised after the battle.

Illusionists – Entertainment is a common application – the Illusionist will project a scene for a crowd of onlookers. Depending on the quality of the production, the actors will either be projections as well, or real actors that have to be careful not to destroy the illusion when they are required to interact with the scenery. The other common usage is as messengers, since they can project a voice to another person. Illusionists have a network that they can send messages through, from one side of Attarnon to the other, if necessary. There is a limit to how far they can project their voice, so the Illusionists are carefully spaced.

Scouts – They make good assassins and thieves. There’s little they can do on the honest side of society, though some clever individuals have come up with uses – like the woman who wanted someone to tend to her flowers without trampling them – Scouts don’t leave footprints. Or the man who suspected his house guests were stealing from him.

Healers – There is usually a Healer in every town with a sufficient population. They are incredibly useful to have around, for obvious reasons.

Shifters – Spy work is the obvious one, since a Shifter can look like anyone he wants to. Shifters don’t have a common role in Attarnon, though they can be called upon to do odd jobs.

Mentalist – Mentalists tend to work on their own, mostly due to the fact that most people don’t like having someone around who can read their thoughts. Tends to make people nervous. However, Mentalists are incredibly useful to law enforcement officials who want to know if a person is lying. Most towns will employ at least one Mentalist for this purpose.

Assistants – You can find Assistants lurking nearly everywhere there are people doing difficult jobs, as they can push their stamina into others, helping them do more work. The Asylum itself employs several Assistants for this reason, and they often help out when strenuous tasks are required. There is also a secret to Assistants that has been hidden from society for quite some time…

 

Editing update: Realized I need a new scene in Chapter Two, so I’ve been working on that. It’s about half done.

Quis

November 14th, 2011

The Quis first established a presence in Attarnon with the arrival of Jarem Nebriah. Jarem was a Qui trained in the old way, and he became influential with Attarnon’s King at the time. He was instrumental in establishing the Asylum, and leading the war against Brochus.

Since that time, the Quis in Attarnon have been on a downward spiral. There are several reasons why they are weaker now than they ever have been in the past. The first is simple complacency – Madmen have been conditioned to believe that the Quis are more powerful than themselves, and so fall easily when caught. In truth, there are ways to resist the Quis, but these methods have been suppressed. And so the Quis don’t need to keep themselves in top condition.

The second is their training. The old method – the one Jarem Nebriah undertook – was extremely slow. It took, on average, ten years for Quis to learn how to master their skills. The new method – the one developed and now used exclusively in the Asylum – can be as quick as a month, most of which is spent training in combat abilities. I can’t go into the details of how this works at the moment, as that would be a minor spoiler, but suffice to say they don’t get the chance to truly hone their skills. In addition, there are more subtle uses of their abilities that are ignored completely.

And the final reason is a lack of understanding. Most Quis in Attarnon do not know their true purpose, what their powers are, or where they come from. All they know is that they’re stronger, faster, and they can block Madmen. I won’t explain this right now, but there is a reason why Quis take oaths to keep the law, and why some see themselves as peacekeepers.

There are Quis in the world that do not share these weaknesses, but most of them are in the eastern lands, and rarely venture west. In Attarnon, a particularly determined group of Madmen would likely be able to defeat a group of Quis.

There won’t be much information on the Quis – or Resses, or Vers – until the second book, which ventures into the eastern kingdoms of Darill and Aridia.

 

Editing update: Finished the new beginning and the edits on the Prologue and Chapter One. Then I spent a large portion of time on “fantasy research” in the form of Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson and Skyrim.

The Trinity

November 7th, 2011

When the world of Osterin was being populated, life was created in three stages. The first form of life consisted solely of a Body – the part of a being that interacts with the physical world. These were plants.

The second form of life consisted of a Body and a Spirit. Not only could these creatures interact with the physical world, but they had instincts and reactions drawn subconsciously from the spirit realm. They were not, however, capable of conscious thought. These were the animals.

And the third form of life was created with the trinity of Body, Spirit, and Mind. These creatures had conscious thoughts, could reason and plan – and they could use magic. They were, of course, the humans.

It is theorized that, as there is a physical realm and a spirit realm, there must be a realm devoted to the Mind as well. Further, this must be a realm of great power, as it is where all magic is drawn from. Great effort has gone into attempts to discover this realm, but with no success. Some believe that Mentalists hold the key, as they can catch glimpses of another’s conscious thoughts.

This is also why a Madman’s mind deteriorates the more he uses magic – the power needs to flow through the mind and into the physical realm through the body. In truth, when a Madman snaps, it’s not his mind that breaks. If it was, Ratans wouldn’t be able to use magic. Rather, it’s the connection between mind and body that gets eroded away.

Of interest is the fact that animals have spirits. This is important for two reasons. One, it means that anything a Necromancer can do with a human spirit, he can do with an animal’s. This includes something as simple as returning it to its body, or something as complex as fusing the spirit to another object.

The other reason is enchantments. Enchantments are something that can only be performed by a Ver, and they require the use of spirits. This usually involves a sacrifice. If animals didn’t have spirits, a human sacrifice would be required. While this is done on occasion – human spirits produce the strongest effects – it is frowned upon for obvious reasons.

 

Editing update – done with the first scene of the new beginning. There should be one more scene left, and then it’ll get into where it started before, which was a bit too abrupt.

Ratans

October 31st, 2011

A Ratan is the result of a Madman snapping – and is the expected result for all Madmen. Their mind has become so degraded that the link between mind and body is severed, leaving the victim without a conscious will of their own. This process is often accompanied by an explosion of magical power as the filter for the Madness has disappeared. This is the main reason the Quis were formed.

One odd thing about Ratans is that there is no record of them before about 500 A.C., despite Madmen existing long before then. In fact the term ‘Ratan’ comes from the name of the first Madman to snap – Ceodore Rattan.

Despite the often violent and potentially deadly nature of their formation, Ratans were a highly prized commodity for many years after they first began to appear. This was due to the way they could be used. A Ratan could still access magic, and would perform any command mindlessly. There was also no danger of them snapping – a Ratan who drew too much power would suffer from a slow corruption of the body, followed by a sudden and silent death. This made them ideal tools for the rich and powerful.

Of course, there was backlash. Some of the more power hungry and morally bereft people attempted to create Ratans from Madmen by forcing them to draw on their magic. This often did not end well, but it was still attempted. Eventually – for this and other reasons – the Madmen drew away from Attarnon and through the mountains to form their own country – Brochus. There, any Ratans that were created were sold to the neighbouring country of Darill, where they were brought to the capital of Ganyan, treated well and used for magical research – which was then sold back to Brochus for more Ratans.

Meanwhile, a public revolt formed in Attarnon against the use of Ratans, and eventually the practice became illegal. This was the basis – officially, at least – for the War of Magic that Attarnon waged against Brochus.

Ratans are now rarely seen, as the main function of the Quis in Attarnon is to prevent them. Brochus has been destroyed, and the Ratan trade with it. Towering spires and intricate woodwork in Ganyan still stand as a testament to their power. Even horses and cows were manipulated in Ganyan by Ratan Druids to be faster, more obedient – in some cases, nearly mindless – or to produce better meat and milk. The prices of such animals has skyrocketed, and are now only in the possession of the very few who can afford them.

Much of the research that was produced in Ganyan was destroyed in the War. Some copies may still exist in Ganyan, but travel beyond the mountains is rare, especially with the Quis keeping a close eye on their Madmen.

One has to wonder, however – how does the Asylum keep their Ward going over the entire area if the powerful Ratan Warders are illegal?

 

Writing update – haven’t had much time this past week, thanks to real work, but this week looks slower. My goal is to finish the new beginning this week.