The Long-ish Wait is Over

Wow, it’s later than I thought it would be. I just spent several hours reading my recently finished Rooks prequel to my dear mama, for she is old and frail… and old, and can’t see too well. And she’s the only person in RL who’s around and willing to listen to my glorious works.

Note I’ve added some ‘categories’ to my blog. For categorising.

Anyway, today I thought I’d talk about Evo and Dread, the two novels of mine that have the least written about them, about 5,000 words each—something I hope to rectify after NaNo—and how they came into being.

Evo, as I said in my first ever blog post ever, is my attempt at seeing if YA Paranormal Romance can be done to a standard that I would consider ‘well’. It builds on the Twilight structure; young girl, paranormal creature(s), love triangle, stuff… okay, it’s not really a structure, but you can’t say I haven’t done my research for this one!

Actually, since I only sought out the books I knew I’d find hilariously bad, I guess you could say that. Oh well. Moving on, ‘Evo’ is set in the 1950s Northumberland, a place and time I know very little about, and deals with many issues I am in no way qualified to deal with, but I’m going to do it anyway, because I lack sensitivity—and if you have a problem with that then you’re an insensitive bastard!

Don’t worry, I won’t actually deal with any issues, they’ll just exist in the book. As I’ve said before, I usually hate books that deal with ‘issues’. But, the main character is half black, and it’s not like it’s ignored by the other characters, it’s just not the focus of the book or of the character; and why would it be, when she’s caught in a love triangle with the Frankenstein Monster and the Invisible Man!?

Well, not so much of a love triangle as… a big mess. Here’s an excerpt, in which our heroine Regina has just met the mysterious new student John Evelyn Mandeville, who we will later discover is nicknamed ‘Evo’, and is conversing with him for the first time about some recent deaths…

Lighting flashed far away.

“You think your arrival warrants all this?” I laughed. “Should I be worried?”

He smiled again, this time for a few moments more than before.

“Well, I was referring to the funerals. I suppose everyone’s a bit  out of sorts over the affair?” His voice was uncertain. “Probably not looking to make new friends so quickly.”

Ah, he was worried about his position in a world still grieving the loss of the guys he’d been sent to replace. That was understandable—as I said before one of the girls had used that very word in reference to him. Unfortunately I couldn’t speak for the others, only for myself, and I especially wouldn’t know what the feeling was towards him at Wells’.

“Some of them are,” I said. “I didn’t know Marigold all that well, and I didn’t know the boys at all, but I think those that did are pretty upset over the whole thing.”

“I’d imagine so,” said John Evelyn, averting his eyes to look out across the moors. “I heard it was a drowning.”

And there he was hesitant. Morbid curiosity? I had to confess to being weak to that myself sometimes. Better he asked me than someone who’d be distressed by it.

“That it was. For the boys, I mean. Damn fools should’ve known better than to boat on the lake in August—pardon my language. ” Words of that sort still sprung out sometimes, despite the elocution lessons. “I’ve been here less than a year, but even I know the place is strangled with weeds. You fall in and you’re pretty much done for, no matter how strong a swimmer you are.”

We went single file at this point to avoid one of the bigger puddles. John Evelyn shook his head.

“And the girl killed herself? But if the lake was overgrown, wasn’t it difficult to get the bodies out of the water?”

“Yeah…” I said. I was frowning, because that question made him seem a little too interested. Of course, maybe he didn’t get out than much—he looked like he’d never seen the sun before in his life. “Only, the bodies didn’t drift on account—I mean, because of the weeds. They were right where the boat was. The locals fished them out within two hours, but it was much too late.”

“Were their bodies buried here though? Weren’t they being sent back to their families?”

“Three of the boys were local,” I said. “They keep a certain number of places in both schools for the locals—not from the village, but from some of the outlying places, there are a fair few within fifteen to twenty miles. John Garrett’s family’s based in India these days and Marigold’s were Catholic, and their church didn’t want a suicide on the grounds.”

“Did you see it happen?” he asked me. It was kind of blunt, probably something most would find inappropriate—indeed, I kind of felt it was inappropriate, and yet I didn’t really have any trouble answering him.

“No one did. She left the note on her bed and the groundskeeper found her early the next morning, called the teachers; they made sure none of us girls saw anything.”

There was something else he wanted to ask, I could tell from the look on his face. Something about my answer had left him dissatisfied and I began to wonder what his angle was. Some kind of dark soul, obsessed with death and that? Or was he just what my classmates would have called a ‘nosy parker’. To be honest I’d have hoped for the former, that was no matter to me; but I didn’t want him to start prying into my affairs or annoying anyone else with it.

“Doesn’t bother you, does it?” I asked him.

He met my eyes briefly. “I wouldn’t say bothered,” he said. “Only I have an acquired interest in pathology.”

An aspiring surgeon? That was kind of interesting.

“Well,” I said. “I don’t think there was anything out of the ordinary about the deaths themselves, it was pretty much just drowning and jumping off a tall building. That tall building.”

Cheerful as ever!

As for Ah-Seti-Ten the Dread, that one’s a bit harder to define. It was a mixture of watching too much anime and being annoyed with moral absolutism. If you’re a moral absolutist, and to be fair I think most people are, I’m not setting out on a futile mission to destroy your world view, but I’m a relativist, and so my works often deal with moral and social relativism—by which I mean the main characters often do things or have things happen to them that modern society would consider terrible, but are not and never will be considered so or considered as much so by them.

And vice-versa, when it comes to things modern society would consider good.

Maybe it comes from all my years of studying history, but recently I saw a conversation online about one of these time travel series, and how they were so glad that this guy from the eighteenth century happened to have social mores about one degree off from modern liberalism, because otherwise they’d be completely unlikeable.

This was exactly what I hated about the character, the show, and all shows like it. Yes, they also made a good point about how boring it would be if the show did a ‘hero learns an important lesson about X-ism’ every week, but they’re not the only options. I mean, would you adjust your morals just because you got thrown into another culture? I’m not saying historical characters always have to embody all the nastiest aspects of history, but making them pretty much a modern-day person who hilariously doesn’t know how to work a toaster is just so… fake.

So I guess there’ll be a lot of people who hate this book, and all my books, if they ever read them. Do I care? Meh.

I went into the premise in my ‘Insert Title Here’ post, so here’s an excerpt–our heroine has just been bought at auction, and goes to meet and greet another girl bough by the same person:

The auctioneer pointed his cane at the carrier and the Lilentine was given a gentle shove towards the stairs leading off the stage. I followed her with my eyes rather than watch the next lot. She seemed a bit clueless; all wide-eyed and clumsy—she almost tripped going down those steps. A few of the girls tittered, and I admit I had to hold my own laughter in.

Then I think one of the Farsuchite girls said something along the lines of ‘it’s true what they say about northerners’ and my eyes narrowed. Nietszenti wasn’t as far north as Lilenti, but it was certainly further than Farsuchia. Well, for all their clucking those dumb hens hadn’t impressed me any more than the Lilentine girl. Less, if anything.

I squeezed past them towards the prettier girls, hoping to talk to my new… colleague? I don’t know what you called a slave owned by the same master that you were, or even if there was a word for it. She was indeed very beautiful, with blue-green eyes and smooth, pale skin. When she’d taken her dress off for the crowd she’d revealed a pretty impressive body too.

She was looking worriedly at the carrier when I approached her.

“Hello,” I said.

Clearly she was surprised I was speaking to her. For a few seconds she just blinked at me.

“He bought me too,” I said with a shrug.

Understanding gleamed in her eyes.

“You know Lilentine,” she said happily.

I nodded.

“You’re Nietszentine? I’m liking your marks.”

Her dialect was a bit odd, not utilising the grammar we were taught at the temple. I assumed by ‘marks’ she meant the tattoos, and I shrugged again.

“Thank you,” I said.

She giggled. “‘Thank you’,” she repeated. “You’re talking nice. Like about from Eelin.”

Yeah, I’d guessed she probably wasn’t from the capital.

“Were you from the mountains?” I asked.

“Aye,” she said. “I’m Sukemi-on-Ealisetnin, my father is Sudi-on-Ealisetnin.”

“My name is Orinetpho,” I said. “My father is Orin, Chieftain of the Lower Gezett Valleys, blessed by T’hiea.”

I had to say ‘is’ because Lilentine has no past tense, not that I knew whether he was still alive or not, but then if he knew I was then he’d probably have disowned me, so either way he was no longer my father. Nor, I suppose, could I really say he was blessed by T’hiea, seeing as his lands had been sacked and half his family killed or sold into slavery, but that was a much larger matter.

“Seyirak! Seyirak!” yelled the auctioneer again.

The last girl looked to be Farsuchite, and quite nervous. The bidding that followed got quite vicious.

“Do you know what that word means?” I asked Sukemi.

“Virgin,” she said, blushing a little.

Ah, that made sense. Had our master bought her specifically because of that, or had it actually been the hair, I wondered. Hers was lighter than any I’d seen before, close to the inside of a lemon.

“Do you know who’s he?” Sukemi asked me, pointing at the carrier.

As I shook my head I studied it further. It was taller and plainer than others I’d seen carried around the Farsuchian city, but it was a prettier colour as well, a kind of blue that shimmered like an opal, inlaid with black timbers. The men on each side of it were in full armour; again, not a sort I was familiar with, and their faces were entirely covered.

“They could be Teytakk, I suppose,” I said. It was a place I knew little of. “But in all honesty I’ve no idea.”

We weren’t to learn anything more after the last girl was sold either. The auction was broken up for the afternoon meal, to reconvene for the selling of male slaves at the third hour. The notary who had attended our owner stopped by briefly to tell us to wait outside the tent where our owner had been invited to dine, a grand affair which many of the buyers attended. Our owner was carried inside before we could catch so much as a glimpse of what he looked like.

One of the armoured attendants slung a length of rope over the large branch of a nearby tree, then tied one end around my wrists, the other around Sukemi’s. It wasn’t tight, but it did mean we couldn’t try to escape even if we’d had anywhere to go, and annoyingly the rope was only long enough for one of us to sit down at a time.

He did bring us some food though, which was nice of him; some flat bread and hrethahl, a kind of paste made out of chickpeas, cashews, and the pureed innards of a chicken. Probably a chicken. Most of the hrethahl I’d had since I’d got to Farsuchia had been made from pigeon, but this had come from inside the tent, so I had high hopes for finer fare.

There were a few dried figs as well, but I wasn’t hungry enough to force down a fruit I’d never liked, so I passed mine to Sukemi in exchange for more bread.

As we sat, we talked a bit. She told me how she’d come to be in a place so far away from Lilenti, how the harvest had been bad in the north and her father’s winter stores had suffered. She told me the same conditions had happened five years ago, and at that time her father had refused to sell any of his children for money that would have seen them through the winter, how he’d decided to brave the winter with what he had.

She told me how a brother and two sisters had starved to death that year. Sukemi was the third of thirteen children, all by the same mother, and had nine siblings still living, of which she was the second eldest. The money her family made by selling her would ensure they could buy imported grain in the coming months. Her parents and siblings had been devastated to lose her, but at least none of them would die.

“It wouldn’t be a nice life there anyway,” she told me. “Papa can’t afford a dowry, so my husband is being whoever’ll have me.” She chewed and swallowed. “Like is here, I suppose. Wish Papa can have some of six hundred jeahl—how much that be in sovereigns, you think?”

There were about ten jeahl in a Nietszentine counter, so Sukemi had been bought for sixty of those, but they were worth three times a Lilentine sovereign. “A hundred and eighty,” I told her.

She hissed as though she’d been burned. “Papa getting thirty-two,” she said.

“Unfair,” I agreed, then stood up so she could sit down—a bit ungainly, with my hands bound. “Though my father got nothing, of course.”

Somehow my being stolen made us both smile.

And now I must go make some food of my own…

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