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NaNoWriMo: Success!

I dood it!

I got the 50,000 word challenge for National Novel Writing Month! I was up late last night trying to get it done, but it is done and I am content. Technically, now, it was a continuation of my previous work on my existing novel-in-progress, First Empress, just a later part of the story that I hadn’t gotten to yet. The important thing is that it is that it was all new material to help me continue my tale.

One of the more interesting experiments was getting to deal more closely with Queen Viarraluca’s detractors, her political enemies. Though her majesty has overthrown and executed the Tetrarchy that previously ruled the Hegemony of Andivel and gotten the people and the army on her side, there still exists a Council of nobles that have a lot of political power, and who see this new tyrant queen as a threat to that power. And, to be fair, she is a threat as she refuses to play by their rules and steps around them in everything she does. So it was kind of fun to get a look into their minds and understand what motivates them, as well as their assumptions about Queen Viarra’s motivations.

Here’s an excerpt from an early scene where they meet to conspire against her majesty. At this point in the story, there has already been an assassination attempt on Queen Viarra, and the seven noblemen who financed the assassin have been tracked down and crucified. This scene takes place the evening after a Council meeting where Queen Viarra verbally bitch-slaps a group of her detractors, followed by a speech from General Etan voicing his support for her majesty and his derision for the council.


The twenty-six conspirators met at Councilman Evral’s country vineyard estate, the night lit by the near-full moon. Peron followed his father, Lord Amrel, through the gateway and into the main courtyard. It wasn’t enough that this fucking islander queen had hanged the tetrarchs and driven out their families—Peron’s fiancée, Iress, fleeing with them—the she-tyrant had crucified the father of two of the young nobleman’s closest friends and driven them from the city as well.

It was a classic take-over, the young nobleman reflected. New monarch gets the military and the people on her side, then tears down the previous ruling class to ensure her place as sole despot. She’d started by bribing the soldiers with money she’d stolen from the late tetrarchs—and possibly by sleeping with a general or two. Then she’d seduced the people by lowering taxes and spending coin generously among the craftsmen and merchants. It was no wonder the people loved their new queen: the bitch knew how to appeal to the greed of the soldiers and the nearsightedness of the commoners. Her methods were so… cliché that the council and nobles should have seen this coming.

This was why the people of Andivel had formed the tetrarchy in the first place, to maintain a balance of power and prevent such tyrants from taking root and exploiting the populace. Clearly the soldiers and lower classes had forgotten this.

“Of course we blamed them for incompetence,” Lord Unor was saying as Peron followed his father into the main sitting room. “How competent can they be: they got beaten to a standstill by a bunch of hairy, slobbering barbarian thugs who still think iron smelting is a radical invention? One decent hoplite ought to be worth any ten shirtless Gan.”

“Not that it makes a difference now,” another councilman pointed out. “General Etan’s little diatribe made clear that the arrogant bitch has most, if not all, of the army on her side now. How long do you think we have before she has the rest of us on the council hanged or crucified?”

“Or quartered or stoned or impaled or beheaded or torn apart by dogs?” Councilman Ordis added gloomily.

“Or what’s that quaint tradition among some of the eastern Tollesian colonies?” Lord Evral asked. “The one where they lock you in a box with just your head sticking out and give you plenty to eat until you rot to death in your own excrement?”

“That strikes me as unlikely,” Councilman Berol shook his head. “It’s kind of an inefficient way to kill someone, and this queen strikes me as nothing if not efficient.”

“After Etan’s little speech, Lord Onris told me that he’s leaving the city,” Peron’s father spoke up. “He said that he’s not going to wait for the bitch’s attack dogs to come after him, so he’s leaving to be with his wife’s family in Mertal.”

“That’s desperation,” Berol snorted. “Onris fucking hates his wife’s family.”

“Is that our only solution?” Peron found himself asking. “Leave Andival before the crazy bitch trumps up excuses to have the rest of us executed?”

“Well, she’s got the military and the idiot rabble on her side, so we can’t exactly raise a coup or a popular uprising,” Lord Evral pointed out. “And after that failed assassination attempt, she’ll probably be on alert for another knife in her window.”

“And it’s not like we can erode her authority with the council,” Lord Amrel added. “We are the fucking council, but she doesn’t seem to feel under any obligation to play by our rules. How do you attack someone who’s unassailable?”

“There’s a cute trick among the Venarri kingdoms in the west, as well as a few of the Gannic kingdoms, and even some of the western mainland and island Tollesian city-states,” Councilman Haret spoke up for the first time thus far. “When an enemy city seems too fortified and fully prepared for a siege, instead of surmounting the walls or sieging the city, they undermine the walls’ foundation. They have sappers dig under the walls, using gravity to cause the fortifications to crash in on themselves. For all intents and purposes, they attack the very foundation supporting their unmovable enemy, making him collapse under his own weight.”

“I get it,” Ordis smirked. “Instead of sending thugs or assassins after Queen Viarra, send them after her supporters. She can’t watch over all of her friends at once.”

“Exactly,” Haret nodded gravely. “Murder army officers who’ve pledged their allegiance, councilmen who’ve voiced support for her, merchants with whom she does frequent business, even her servants if we can catch them at the right moment. Collapse her foundations by killing her supports and making others afraid to keep holding her up.”


Ambushers Ambushed

An excerpt from the first chapter of my NaNoWriMo project. The scene comes at a point in the story where the fortunes of the Hegemony of Andivel are beginning to turn favorable because of Queen Viarraluca’s just and competent rule. For years they’ve been losing ground to the barbarian tribes who inhabit the Vedrian Mountains that form the northern border of the hegemony. By deploying more and better-trained soldiers to protect the northern trade routes, farms, and townships, they’re able to better deal with the barbarian raiders, retaking much of their former territory and resecuring their northern borders.

The following scene shows a barbarian ambush on a trade caravan along one of the northern roads. It’s one of the clearest earlier looks at the barbarians themselves, the kind of tactics and weapons being used, as well as the barbarian attitudes toward the Tollesian peoples.

* * *

Huntress Bedra and the other bow-warriors of the Benori tribe crouched in the brush on the north side of the Tollesian roadway as the merchant caravan rumbled into view. The caravan was bigger than they’d anticipated, but with the element of surprise, they should still make short work of the merchants and guards. And a bigger convoy meant better loot distribution. This would be a quick, bloody ambush—a massacre, really.

Those idiots in the Averci tribe were still doing small-time raids on small farms and lost caravans, but with the increased presence of Tollesian soldiers on the roads, raiding in thirty- to fifty-man parties was becoming less and less safe. She’d heard that another band of Averci warriors had been driven off just this morning—once again by those fucking cavalry soldiers.

What manner of cowards pranced about on horses in battle, anyway? A true warrior kept her feet firmly on the ground.

No, raiding bigger targets with a larger war party was becoming the smarter and more effective solution—give the Tollesians too many warriors for their patrols to deal with and force them to retreat. Nearly thirty of her fellow bow-warriors and over fifty shield-warriors crouched in the tall grass and brush on either side of the road, waiting for their war leader’s signal to attack. The footmen carried spears to defend against any cavalry that might show up, while the hunters bore longbows with bone- or obsidian-tipped arrows. Bone and obsidian had fairly poor armor penetration, but her tribe preferred to save their bronze and iron arrows for the fucking hoplites.

Bedra had taken on the role of huntress after the death of her husband during the Tollesian’s previous campaign into the lowlands. Considered “tainted” or “jinxed” by her tribesmen, she had found herself unable to remarry because her previous three pregnancies had miscarried. With two surviving children to feed, she had taken to hunting to support her family. After demonstrating her archery prowess, several of the other bow-warriors had invited her on her first raid the previous summer.

The huntress counted about fifty guardsmen as well as a couple dozen merchants, workers, and slaves. Seven wagons in total, all of them covered. The guards carried small shields and spears, short swords, or clubs; maybe a dozen had armor. Bedra spotted a young slave girl who might make a pretty gift for her son. She was sure that the others were sizing the loot up as well.

When the wagons were directly between the two parties of raiders, their war leader stood and blared his hunting horn, signaling the war party to attack. Bedra and her fellow hunters leapt to their feet, letting fly a volley of arrows on the unarmored guards. The guards shouted and retreated back to what little cover the wagons provided, trying to protect their heads with their wussy shields. Bedra grinned as one of her arrows snagged a guardsman in the guts.

With that, the spearmen came charging from the brush, trapping the guardsmen against the wagons. The guards had plenty of brawl in them, but none fought like soldiers and clearly had never fought against true Gannic warriors. The merchants and slaves all took cover amid the wagons, and Bedra was about to notch up another victory over the Tollesian cowards.

Then the whole ambush went straight to hell.

A man in Tollesian officer’s armor stood up from one of the wagons and blasted three notes on a war horn. At the signal, the covers flew off of four of the wagons and soldiers came pouring over the sides. Each wagon carried a dozen of those fucking hoplites and a half-dozen archers. The hoplites leapt into the fray and engaged the spearmen, while the archers crouched in the wagons, exchanging arrows with the Gannic hunters. Even more frustratingly, the archers all wore those linen cuirasses; the hunters wore only wool tunics.

Though still technically outnumbered, the armored hoplites tore mercilessly into the startled spear-warriors. Swords flashed and warriors fell, with but a few injuries among the Tollesians. Bedra could only assume that the same scene was unfolding on the other side of the wagons.

A mere fifteen yards in front of her, the hoplite line hacked through the Benori spearmen, sending the survivors scattering. As the lines broke, the hunters turned to flee as well. Bedra fired a single arrow at the nearest hoplite, but it bounced harmlessly off the bronze scales stamped into his cuirass. The huntress turned with the others and ran toward the trees a quarter mile off. As she ran, however, she saw how futile the effort was. A dozen Tollesian horsemen charged in from the east, cutting off the fleeing hunters.

The horsemen lobbed their javelins into the trapped barbarians, then lay into them with sword and spear. Bedra let fly one arrow into a horse’s flank, causing it to stumble and throwing the rider. Another horse bowled the huntress over before she could react, but thankfully not trampling her. A hoplite put a knee in the middle of her back before she could rise, then forcibly tied her hands behind her. She cried out as the Tollesian jerked her to her feet.

How had they done this? Bedra wept to herself as the bastards led her away. Her tribe had been so successful in their raids the past two years, but the fucking Tollesians had just ambushed their ambushers. What had happened? What had changed?

National Novel Writing Month: Take 3

Synopsis for my entry for National Novel Writing Month (a continuation of my previous NaNoWriMo work):

Having secured her place as sole hegemon of the Northern Vestic Sea, Queen Viarraluca turns her attention to reestablishing and securing her realm’s northern borders. Once a wary understanding existed between the Tollesian city-states and the barbarian Gannic tribes of the lowlands and mountains to the north. But as the strength and stability of the hegemonic political structure waned, the barbarians have become increasingly violent and bold in their raids against their Tollesian neighbors. With a new and strong ruler at the head, the city-states finally have hope of bringing new peace and security to their beleaguered subjects.

The situation comes to a head, however, when the rulers of a former allied city come to Queen Viarra, pleading for her help in liberating their people from a coalition of Gannic tribes led by the brutal and ruthless King Vedon. Victory over the barbarian horde means the elimination of a major threat to Tollesian prosperity, solidification of the northern borders, and a foothold in future campaigns against hostile tribes.

Defeat means the loss of nearly half of Queen Viarra’s forces, resurgence in raids against Tollesian farms and trade routes, and perhaps even the death of the queen herself.

Writerly Advice for NaNoWriMo

I’m after some writerly advice from my fellow writers out there. I find myself floundering with my NaNoWriMo project. Despite my efforts, I just didn’t have a very solid idea of where I wanted to go with Book II of First Empress. I think part of that is because I’m still deciding on how a lot of stuff will go down in the last few chapters of Book I. I’m seriously debating working on it instead. The problem being that the material all has to be from a different project—as in, Book I can’t count toward the 50,000-word challenge because of the contest guidelines.

I continue to fall behind because of my troubles in reconciling the two books, that I’m beginning to wonder if it’s worth it to try to stick with NaNoWriMo’s deadlines. Would it be best to keep tapping away at Book II? Or should I go back to work on Book I and deal with Book II after the first book is finished? Thoughts?

National Novel Writing Month: Take 2


Vi“There are people who want me dead for no other reason than they’d rather be in charge themselves. Every decision I make, no matter how fair and just, will result in someone I’ve never met praying nightly to the gods for my death simply because I did not decide in their favor. If any of these people believed they could destroy me, they would not hesitate to do so. There is an aphorism in warfare that ‘true safety lies not in counting on your enemy not to attack, but by making your position unassailable.’ This applies in politics as well as combat. By destroying the men behind this attempt on my life, it discourages others who may want me dead from making similar attempts. This was never about revenge or justice. It was about prudence.” –Queen Viarra

So, I’m taking another stab at the 50,000-word challenge for National Novel Writing month. Instead of starting a new project like I’d initially intended, I’m going to start ‘Book II’ of First Empress. This isn’t a sequel, so much as the second ‘act’ in the story. My plan all along was to divide the story into three or four sections, each ‘book’ skipping a number of years in Viarra’s rule. This gives me a handy opportunity to get some major work done on the story. Then, after November is over, I’ll go back in and write the missing chapters from Book I. Here’s a handy link to my previous posts about the story.

Here’s the synopsis I posted for my NaNoWriMo entry:

It is three winters since Queen Viarraluca’s conquest of the northern hegemony of Andivel. Her reign has brought stability to the beleaguered northern Tollesian city-states, creating economic and cultural growth throughout the region. With the barbarian tribes beaten back into the highlands, the young queen looks to fortifying her borders against their incursions. In the south, however, the decades-old feud between the empires of Pellastor and Illarra threatens to drag Viarra’s recovering hegemony into their viper pit of back-stabbings and cold-war politics.

Far away, the girls Zahnia and Pella come to discover that the people who’d once saved them from imprisonment do not have their best interests in mind. Fleeing north, they travel with their caretaker, Nimus, to join the Order of Dallorn’s efforts to establish places of arcane learning among the Tollesian-speaking cities. But even as they arrive at this haven of knowledge and understanding, it becomes increasingly apparent that Dallorn’s children’s motives may not be as altruistic as originally perceived.

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