Map Till You Nap

Keneburg Small

More fun than a barrel of monkeys.  Though I suppose most things are, really.

It’s been a very busy week. Seriously, you have no idea. But I’ve still had time to read, here and there. I’m working my way through Joe Abercrombie’s Best Served Cold, which is very good. I’m about 80% of the way through, and I just discovered that one of my favorite characters isn’t dead after all. Which wasn’t really much of a surprise—I had a feeling he might still be alive. It wasn’t hard to guess, really. When someone gets stabbed, and his friends leave him, assuming he must be dead, that’s almost like when they say, “No body was ever found,” on a soap opera. But anyway, I’m enjoying the book.

I also listened to The Book of Three on audiobook. That’s the first book in Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain, of course. I should probably have read all those books when I was a kid, but I never did. In fact, I’m not even sure I knew they existed, which is a shame. If you read through the reviews on the Goodreads page, you’ll see a number of people grousing about how it’s full of fantasy clichés, or about how it’s a “blatant” Tolkien rip-off. Which I think is a bit unfair. Clearly Alexander is just drawing from the same sort of mythological sources that Tolkien used.

Also, Tolkien, no matter how awesome he may be, never had a female character like Princess Eilonwy. I like her a great deal, and I am quite serious when I say that she pretty much singlehandedly lifts the story from being run-of-the-mill YA fantasy. One reviewer on Goodreads, several pages in, calls her “an irritating twit,” only with a different vowel, and I suppose it says something about the sort of characters I like that my first thought was, “So, what’s your point?”

But it’s not just reading that’s been keeping me busy. This is our last full week of Camp NaNoWriMo, and we’re still in the middle of planning our next big novel. We have the whole thing outlined, and each chapter has been broken down into 400-700 word chunks. That takes a good deal longer than you might expect. When I do this by myself, I wouldn’t try to fully outline more than five or six chapters in a single day. It really just makes your brain melt. And that’s because, as I like to tell people, the outline is really the first draft of the story. It’s just the one where you don’t have to worry at all about how you phrase things. You just think about the plot and the character arcs. And it’s easier to see where things are missing (“Hey, this guy is supposed to be a main character, but he’s disappeared for ten chapters now”).

Now that we’re done outlining, you might imagine that it’s time to get started writing. Or rather, you might imagine that if you’d never met us. No, it’s not time to write—it’s time to make maps!

Last night, we started making a map for Leornian, one of the main cities of our Myrciaverse, and the ancient capital of Myrcia. It’s a city our characters have visited many, many times in many, many books, and yet we’ve never gotten around to finishing a map of it. I mean, we started a map, eight or nine years ago, but looking at it now in the sketchbook, it seems that we got about a quarter of the way through and then stopped for some reason. Maybe we went to take a nap or something.

Anyway, we’re finishing it now. Or rather, we’re starting from scratch, using that good old standby of fantasy mapmakers: blatant theft. We’re taking a map of Florence, turning it around, and moving things around in GIMP to match the image of the city in our heads. As I’ve noted before, this is a much faster way of doing things, and in some ways, much better. Adapting real maps of real places helps to keep your maps grounded in reality. You have some assurance that the city you’re planning is possible, because you know for certain that a city like it exists.

Using a real map as a starting point also helps to keep things more or less to scale. We have a cathedral in our universe that’s over 900 feet long—far, far larger than any real cathedral—and that mainly happened because we forgot to check the scale when we drew it. Since then, we’ve rationalized and lampshaded so that a 900 foot cathedral makes sense (wizards built it, I imagine), but yeah, if we could do it over again, it would probably be smaller than that.

Of course, if you need to change the scale, you always can. But very carefully. This weekend I finished the map for a different one of our cities, which will be a major location for the book, as well. That’s the map at the top there. It’s based on Carcassonne, France, though I changed the scale a bit, making it quite a bit bigger than Carcassonne.

Once we’re done with the maps, I suppose it will finally be time to start writing. Assuming we don’t find something else to do. Some people might think this is all a waste of time, but it’s not. If we’d taken the time to finish that stupid Leornian map seven or eight years ago, we wouldn’t be doing it now. And if we take the time to finish it now, we’ll be thanking ourselves seven or eight years from now, when we need it again.



Hard-Earned Lessons

snape study hall

Do your work. You’ll be happy later that you did.

J and I were chatting yesterday as we made the two-hour drive home from his parents’ about what we wish we had known when we started writing nearly 10 years ago. It was such a good list I thought I should share. It’s by no means definitive, and I’ve no doubt other writers would come up with other items, but if it helps anyone avoid the mistakes we made, then it was worth my time.

There is pretty much nothing easier than writing a giant blob of prose. Writing tens of thousands of words that are novel-shaped is decidedly harder. It’s more than just beginning, middle, and end. It’s advancing character and story, plotting setbacks, making sure the reader isn’t about to nod off or complaining that what you’re telling them is pointless. If I could go back 10 years and tell myself only one thing, it would be to study structure before putting pen to paper.

Speaking of structure, how do you know when to end a chapter? How long should it be? What, exactly, ought to go in one? There’s no one answer for every novel, and we’ve intentionally played around with this in different novels, but we had some 7,000 word chapters with 3 POVs, and zero thematic elements tying them together when we started. We write in decidedly more logical chunks these days.

You won’t remember later
Write. It. Down. That brilliant idea that is so awesome you couldn’t possibly forget it? You will. That solution you found and put in Chapter 10 is great, but when you need it again in Chapter 50, you won’t remember if you didn’t put it in the story bible. Really, if we could go back and keep a more organized story bible from Day 1, it would help a ton. And it really would have helped a lot, even if we’d never moved past the original Quartet. Now that we have over two dozen novels in the Myrcia ‘verse, a good story bible is absolutely essential. And for those little ideas that pop up, they all get written down for use later.

Write in order
We thought it would be all awesome and creative to write the scenes that most inspired us as they inspired us. So when we started, we were literally writing scenes from what would become Book 2 before the characters in that scene had even met in Book 1. At the time, it seemed like a good way to get words down, and I suppose it was, but what it mostly did was make revision twice as long as we then rewrote all of those later scenes to take into account earlier material. Sometimes, I still move around a little, but I a) have a much better outline, and therefore, a better of idea of the story as a whole, and b) have made peace with the fact it will entail extra revision.

Sympathetic characters
We thought if we created a character we liked—a smart girl who is ambitious and happy, surrounded by people who also think she’s awesome—the reader would like her, too. Oops. Early betas found her insufferable and much preferred the girl with the crappy family and the worse husband, who was always looking for a way to make her shitty lot in life just a little better. I think we’ve made them both pretty interesting and sympathetic now, but yeah, we really didn’t understand at first that adversity gets a reader on the side of your character far more than showing how popular she is.

When you have four POV characters spread over thousands of miles in an era when travel was remarkably difficult, keeping an accurate calendar is a must. We had some general ideas about when things should be happening, but when we plotted out exact dates when things had to happen and figured out how long it would take someone to get from Point A to Point B, we realized the timing was completely off. But, thank heavens for those poor traveling conditions so that freak snow storms could hold people up for a week, and magic allows a message to get to someone almost as fast as by telegram. As I’m about to start an epistolary novel, I’m already dreading my calendar—trying to figure out when someone wrote a letter and more importantly when someone read it, again in a world with much slower travel than today. But I know I will be happy that I did, and just like all of these other lessons, when I think about skipping over them, I do my best to make that my mantra—I will be happy that I did.


Castles in the Air

Moving Castle

Like this, only not.

Spring is here at Chez Unicorn, which means the trees are budding and the lilies are sprouting.  This is probably the last weekend we’ll have without the threat of yardwork until July, when it’ll be hot enough to stunt everything.  We’re celebrating by having pork roast and sauerkraut.  And we’ll probably do some writing later.

Earlier, we were out hunting for new glassware.  We’ve been pretty hard on our glasses lately, and we need new ones.  The problem is that everything we found was too small, too ugly, or came in massively large quantities, like 8 or 16.  I mean, we break glasses pretty often, but not that often.  Seriously, Walmart, just let me buy these tall ones in a set of four, for crying out loud.

This is also the last weekend in March, and that means that next time you hear from us, Camp NaNoWriMo will have started.  I’ve got my outline ready, and I’ve done my character profiles and prompts.  For the past few days, I’ve been making a floor plan of the castle where the majority of the action takes place.

Old Wealdan Castle

Behold the fruits of far, far too many hours’ labor.

Some people (well, actually most people) would probably say that this level of preparation is unnecessary.  But personally I’ve found it really helpful.  It’s easy, particularly for fantasy authors, to have a pleasantly vague idea of your setting in your head.  But when you have to sit down and start drawing it, you’re suddenly forced to make decisions.  And you see where certain ideas you had are actually impossible.

Part of the plot of my story, for instance, requires that there be servants’ corridors and secret stairways in this castle.  The moment I started making these floorplans, though, I realized the vague picture I had in my mind of these passageways was completely impossible.  There simply was no room for them.  So I had to spend time thinking about the problem and come up with a practical solution: interstitial servants’ floors with hidden staircases that go up and give access into the public areas through hidden doors.  Now, instead of just secret passages, I’ve got whole secret floors of dark, creepy rooms to play with.  It’s very exciting, actually.

This is all in keeping with one of the longest-running themes of this blog: why planning is better than pantsing.  S and I have found that the more you plan, the easier the actual writing becomes, and the less you have to dread revisions.  Obviously, not every setting requires a detailed map or floorplan, in the same way that not every character requires a lengthy character profile.  But whether it’s setting or character or plot, it’s all too easy to fool yourself and say, “Oh, I know what I’m doing here,” only to discover later that you didn’t really know at all.

So if it’s important to your plot to know, for instance, that Susan’s bedroom is over the garage, with a view over the garden in the back, and the stairway is halfway down the hall and leads to the kitchen, which is next to the den, then it might be worth doing a quick little sketch, just to make sure that’s possible.  You don’t even have to be able to draw well to do a floorplan—just make lines on a page.  It helps ensure your castles are grounded in reality and not, you know, floating on air.


Founding a Dynasty


Just like this.

The big writing news today is that S just finished writing Fiat Justitia, the third Oleg Omdahl novel. We visited her mother today, and I drove so that she could get some writing done. She literally finished the last sentence as we were pulling into her mom’s garage. It’s very exciting. Maybe we’ll have gelato to celebrate later. And perhaps she’ll post something about it sometime soon.

In other news, I’m continuing with various reference projects in the Myrcia ‘verse. At the moment, I’m inventing the various noble dynasties that took part in a long-ago civil war. This is a somewhat mindless task that’s easy to do in the evenings while we’re watching TV or something. I’m going through and giving names and dates of birth, marriage, and death for each generation. Like so:

Bob, Duke of Earl
(b. 420, d. 482 of consumption, duke from 440)
Married: Susan, daughter of the Earl of Warren (b. 423, m. 445, d. 460, of ague)
Fred (b. 446; m. Joan, daughter of Baron LeChrysler, 469; d. 508 of ennui)
Stacy (b. 448, m. Frank, son of Sir Loin of Beef, 470; d. 473 of intense mortification)

Then I do a similar entry for Fred, and then one for his heir, and so on. I don’t worry about Stacy’s kids (if she had any). And I’m not really worried at this point about their personalities or physical characteristics, or anything at all about them other than the bare fact of their existence.

The reason I’m doing this is that I’m planning to write some novels that take place during this time, and I want to know who the main political figures of the era will be. Someday soon, perhaps next year during Camp NaNoWriMo, I might be looking for story ideas to write about. I can look over this list and say, “H’m…. It would be fascinating to know why exactly Stacy died of intense mortification in 473.” So at that point, I can do actual character sheets for her and for her husband, Frank.

Or suppose I decide to write one novel set in 435, and another in 450. I can look at this sheet and know immediately that if Bob shows up in the first one, he’ll be a 15 year-old boy. In the second one, he’ll be a 30 year-old married man with three kids. I don’t have to waste my time planning all this out, because it’ll already be done, and I’ll just have to look it up.

Plus, because all this information will be in a single file (backed up and saved in the cloud, as always), I know right where to find it. If I decide to write a third novel, set in 470, I don’t have to go frantically searching all the way through the previous two, wondering, “Wait a minute, did I ever name his daughter? And is she even still alive at this point?” I just have to open up this one file, and I can see that her name is Stacy, and that 470 is the year she marries Frank.

Ah ha! Maybe the wedding takes place during the novel!

And just like that, I’ve got ideas for a subplot in my novel, just based on a couple lines and a few quick dates that I made up randomly while sitting in my comfy chair and watching an old episode of Community. This is why I like doing background reference work like this in my spare time. It saves so much trouble and effort later on, when I’m actually trying to be creative.


Let Me Draw You a Picture


Giant dry erase board–most important tool in my process.

I’m finally close to finishing Oleg Omdahl 3, Fiat Justitia, and I, in fact, wrote most of the climactic showdown last night. (Although I went to bed before I had to write a character death. I was tired and it was past midnight, and the character deserves my full attention.) Once I finish up that chapter, there are just two chapters of denouement, and draft one of the book will be written.

But before I started the showdown, J helped me draw a map of the area where it would be taking place. There’s some fighting and wizard spells flying around and all that good stuff, so I figured it was finally time to get an exact picture of the area and stop settling for, “Well, you see, there’s this alley, and the building is somewhere in these few blocks.”

This was helpful so I understood the space and also so I could have references to help the reader know where the action was taking place. Also, since we needed to fill the area, it finally gave us the opportunity to place the offices of a company we’ve been writing about since J invented them about 5 years ago, and we’ve both now mentioned multiple times.

Yes, maps take time, and they can be a distraction, but I’ve never failed to find some important detail that makes my story better when drawing or looking at them. In fact, the entire plot of the second Oleg novel, The Science of Fire, came from me looking at the original map J and I made when we first created the Myrcia ‘verse. Until I really looked at the map, I’d never noticed a little quirk in the border of two countries, but once I saw it, well, it changed everything.

Now, the real question is how much trouble could I get into if I start learning 3D imaging like I keep threatening?


Yet Another Camp Update

Aramis and Anne

Aramis gets busted sneaking into the girls’ cabin.

We’re still at camp, and today we’re at Panera having a write-in with some friends from the local NaNoWriMo group.

S is still moving along, and she’s almost certainly got enough words to win, except that first she needs to get it all typed up so she can validate her word count. If you’ve never done NaNoWriMo, the way you win is to copy and paste what you’ve written into a window that then counts your words and verifies that you’ve got enough. And that’s perfectly simple for people like me, who compose at the keyboard. But for people like S, who prefer to handwrite with a pen in a journal, there’s always the challenge of getting everything typed up.* I’ll be helping her with that in a little while, once I’ve finished writing this blog post.

As for me, my novel has been finished for a while now, and I’m working on a reference file on the history and culture of one of the imaginary countries in the Myrciaverse. We’ve done a number of these files over the years, starting with the very first ones, which we were working on before we even had names for the countries. Somewhere in the basket by S’s chair at home, there’s a journal that still has headings in it like, “Bad Guy Country” and “Other Country.”

Doing the research for this sort of thing is usually pretty fun. All our fictional countries are, to a greater or lesser extent, based on real places. So reading up on, say, ancient Chinese nobility or the types of Viking ships, is always a good time. And, on the occasions when it gets a bit tedious, I can always just remind myself that I’m saving myself time later on, someday when I write a novel that takes place in this country, and I can just open up the file and find what I need to give the story a little local color, rather than trying to make it all up on the spur of the moment.

So that’s what I’ll be working on later today. But for now, there’s typing to be done.


*Technically, NaNo allows you to have a friend count the words and then you can use a Lorum Ipsum generator, but that’s a lot of work to put in when it needs typed anyway. ~S

Final Preparations


You know these guys are ready for Camp NaNo. 

Happy Easter! We did not make Easter eggs this year, but we did have a lovely ham and potato soup, which was very tasty. Seriously, you should all be jealous of our supper. It was awesome.

Camp NaNoWriMo starts this coming Friday, so S and I are finishing up our preparations. I wrote all of my character prompts, and I have lately been working on a map of the city where much of the story’s action takes place. As I have mentioned before, when I don’t have enough time to do a map from scratch, I sort-of cheat by taking the map of a real city and changing things around a bit. This makes the whole process much, much faster, and it means that the resulting map is likely to avoid serious geographical errors.

Now I’m going back over my outline and polishing it up a bit. Since I have a map of the city, and have named districts and streets and canals and temples, I can write those names into the outline, so I remember to mention them in the text.

I also caught what would have been a minor plot hole. One of my characters reveals his true identity to another character in chapter 15 or so, except that she should totally already know who he is. So that took some careful thought over my morning coffee before I figured out a way to make everything work out right. Morning coffee always makes everything better.

Finally, I “cast” my main POV characters. That is to say, I decided which actors I would use as their physical models. We’ve discussed this before, and apparently some people think this is a terrible idea. I’ve read people complaining about this who say that, “I’ve got this very definite idea of the character in my mind, and if I was thinking of an actor, then it would destroy that image.” No offense to those people, but I think what they really mean is, “I have this very, very vague idea of my character, and if I had to ‘cast’ him, then I would have to start thinking about boring, yucky stuff like concrete physical details.” Anyway, I think the exercise is terribly useful. I found pictures of the five actors I “cast.” Usually I like to have at least three for each character: one head shot looking serious; one head shot smiling; and one full-length, showing their general build and body type. Perhaps later in the month I’ll post some of these.

Good luck with Camp NaNo, and if you haven’t signed up yet, you really should go do that now!


Getting Schooled



It’s mid-September, and that means it’s time to start thinking seriously about our NaNo novels.  Yes, some people just start writing on November 1 with no idea where the plot is going, but as we’ve mentioned before, we both believe in planning our stories ahead of time.  Outlining, after all, is half the fun.  I’ll probably be writing two novels this year, as I have done the last two years, and starting early like this will give me plenty of time to fully outline both stories and make profiles for all the characters.

In addition to outlining, though, there’s also reference work to be done.  And part of that for me this year will be coming up with a new school.  The heroine of my second story is going to be obliged by straitened family finances to become a teacher, so I’ve got to design the school that she will be teaching at.

Luckily, we already know something about the educational system of our fantasy world.  Three of the four main POV characters in the Quartet meet at an elite boarding school, early in the first book.  This was one of the very earliest ideas that we had when we were first outlining the Quartet.  So you could say that we’ve been thinking and writing about a school in our ‘verse for the better part of eight years now.  One of the first scenes S ever wrote for our story, in fact, takes place at that school.  For my first NaNo novel, I wrote Guardian Winter, which tells what happens at that school during the war, while our POV characters go off and have exciting adventures together.

But that’s the super-elite school, where brilliant people and princesses and wizards-in-training go.  What about the other schools?  Obviously, in a medieval or renaissance-based world, any school at all will be, to a certain extent, an elite institution, since there will be large numbers of people who don’t go to school at all, or are apprentices, or who are tutored at home.  But not every school is going to be quite like the school where the king sends his beloved daughter.

So now I’m trying to come up with another school, bearing in mind that everything there should be a bit less grand than at the school we’ve already seen.  Fortunately, there’s a lot of information on the web about education in the renaissance and about fancy boarding schools in general.  Over the years, for example, the Wiki pages on Eton and Winchester College have been a surprisingly fruitful source of ideas.

There’s the matter of curriculum, as well.  Not that I’m going to make my readers slog through long transcriptions of lectures, but it’s good to have a sense of what characters at this new school would be learning.  Especially since the main POV character is going to be a teacher.  What sort of qualifications would she have to have?  Presumably to get a teaching job, she would have to master the standard curriculum.  So what sort of things is she supposed to know?  Luckily, the content of a medieval or renaissance education is pretty well known.

In our ‘verse, people study literature and foreign languages, too,  not just classical texts.  We gave our characters a grounding in foreign languages because that makes it easier to explain why they can all talk to each other.  And we have them study contemporary literature, even though that’s a decidedly modern idea, because we’re both former English majors, and that way we can draw on our own educational experiences.

As with a lot of worldbuilding, there are two competing pressures that determine what kind of educational system you have in your ‘verse: the needs of the story, and the logical consequences that flow from the kind of society your characters live in.  If, for example, I need a teenage character to be able to speak Swedish, I can just say that she happens to have attended a school where they teach Swedish to everyone.  There’s really nothing that couldn’t, hypothetically, be part of a school curriculum if you really wanted it to be—gymnastics, magic, gardening.  You name it, someone somewhere could teach it.  But then you have to consider the implications of that curriculum.  What kind of a school has a mandatory Swedish-as-a-foreign-language program?  What does it say about the town where my heroine lives that it could support such a program?  What sort of place is this where teaching the kids Swedish in school would make sense?  (No offense, Sweden.)  School curricula aren’t always a perfect reflection of society, goodness knows.  But at least to a certain extent, what’s taught in school is basically what adults think kids need to know in order to be decent adults.  So you can learn a lot about a place by considering what they would want to teach their kids.

I’ve come up with a brief history of the town and the school already, and I’ll probably be making a map soon.  My goal is to make sure that I have a sense of what the school is like, so that when I put my POV characters there, I can describe it without too much trouble.  My hope is that it feels like a real place, with sufficient character of its own that the reader won’t just dismiss it as “Hogwarts-lite.”


Getting Religion

After the service, be sure to join us for the covered-dish dinner!

After the service, be sure to join us for the covered-dish dinner!

S and I are back from Gen Con, which was loads of fun.  We attended a bunch of panel discussions on topics ranging from constructing magic systems to “What Editors Want.”  There were a couple of lectures, too, including a very entertaining one by Scott Lynch on writing realistic trauma and death in fantasy and sci-fi.

One of the panel discussions we went to was on inventing religions, which was very useful for me, since that’s what I’ve been doing since finishing The Path of the Son in the second week of July.  A few of our main cultures in the Myrciaverse practice different denominations of the same religion, and the conflict between these denominations is a major causus belli in the Quartet.  Here’s the thing, though: we’ve never spent much time actually nailing down the differences in church doctrine that separate these people.  So that’s what I’m working on.

Last year at Context, S and I picked up a book on worldbuilding called Eighth Day Genesis.  The chapter in there on religion is by Maurice Broaddus, and I highly recommend it as a starting point for anyone who is trying to figure out how to do a fictional religion right.  Sadly, even though he was at Gen Con this year, Maurice Broaddus wasn’t on the religion panel.  Maybe next time.

So here are a few things I’ve been trying to keep in mind, both from the book and from the panel discussion we attended, as I make up doctrines and ceremonies and ancient schisms:

1) Everyone is the hero of his own story.
As a general rule, both in religious and secular contexts, bad guys don’t know they’re the bad guys.  Even if a religion is “evil,” even if it’s headed up by horrible people who do horrible things, those people probably think they are the good guys.  They have to have some sort of motivation besides just making life miserable for the hero.  They’re just trying to make the world a better place, one human sacrifice at a time, and they can’t understand why the hero won’t just get with the program and join them.

2) Religion is part of your culture, not separate from it.
Religion affects how people see the world, so it’s important to think through the consequences of doctrine.  If you’ve grown up going to Sunday School, and you’ve been taught that X, Y, and Z are terrible, terrible sins, then that’s going to inform your reaction to X, Y, and Z for the entire rest of your life.  You’ll think they’re icky and wrong.  Or maybe, if you reject the faith you were brought up in, X, Y, and Z will seem especially tempting and exciting.  But in either case, you’ll never see those things the same way you would have without those Sunday School lessons.

3) What do your POV characters know?
Obviously it’s nice to have the whole religion planned out, but when writing a story, the important thing is to ask what the characters know.  If a POV character is, say, a priest or theologian, then he knows pretty much everything there is to know.  In the Quartet, some of our young POV characters go through a Confirmation-like process, where they have to memorize catechisms and things like that.  So they have a fairly good idea of the major doctrines.  But it wouldn’t be odd for them not to be aware of the full history.  And more importantly, they don’t really know all that much about the doctrines of the other denominations.  They just have a vague sense that those other people do things differently.

So, anyway, that’s what I’ve been up to.  I’m almost finished with the second of the four major denominations, but school will be starting up again in a couple weeks, so it might be a while until I get finished.


Hypothetically Speaking…

Hypothetically speaking, S might possibly be working on my birthday present. I wouldn’t know anything about it, of course, but if I did, I imagine she might be writing me a short story depicting an important moment in the life of a major historical figure in Myrcian history—the guy who will be the protagonist of Magnificent Kingdom when we get around to writing that.

So, what I’m saying is that, once again, we’re going to have to put off our list of Best Fantasy Characters. Honestly, we really do mean to get back to that sooner or later.

What I’m doing this evening is to work on reference material. As I’ve mentioned before, we’ve got files with background info on all the major countries of our ‘verse. But the problem is that it’s all very Myrcia-centric. That is to say, we know everything that a given country does that affects events in Myrcia, but we don’t know very much about what happens in those countries at other times. So I’m going through and trying to fill in some blanks about the big Empire to the north. It’s the country that Sabrina serves in My Private War, so I think having some more of the history worked out will help when we want to revise those books.

Anyway, that’s what we’re up to tonight. That and going down to the basement periodically to make sure it isn’t flooding from all the rain we’ve gotten today.