Ahh, to settle down a little

Christmas is a hectic holiday, isn’t it? Running from here to there, sending frantic e-mails, facebook chats, debates over gifts and a budget, the annual tango with the post office…Then there was a little detail where we have not yet settled on a church to regularly attend, and we went to one yesterday that I think may stick. We’re funny about deciding things. We pick less on a checklist of what we want and more on a general feeling of if it is right. Makes Christmas shopping a real bugger.

My husband has this hobby of marathon watching oodles of sy-fy channel series. We’ve finally made it through all, yes, all, of the Star Treck series, and he’s tackled several others including Andromeda, and the most recent is Farscape. I might have mentioned this before, but if I watch even one episode, my creative juices are tainted for the remainder of the day. I have to detox the foreign ideas out of my pores for a while. So, watching movies is his form of relaxation. Unfortunately, they are a stimulant to me. An angry stimulant. Thus, as holiday activities escalate, he seeks more of his relaxation and what ends up happening is I get wound up soooooo tight. Normally I would retreat into another room if I was feeling TV overwhelmed, but this is a rather open-floor-style apartment. The only room with four walls and a door is the bathroom, but even so, unless I have the fan on and water running, I can hear very clearly what is going on in the show.

I brought out an early Christmas gift two days ago: A pair of headphones and the privilege to watch as much of anything he wants, and I won’t hold it against him for “going ahead”. It means peace for me, finally, peace. 

Two days into the music-only silence, and I’m finally able to concentrate on edits. I spent one of my detox days reading the previews of a book I’ve decided I’m going to buy. Editing takes a long time, but I’m enjoying it, when I forget to be frustrated by the days I’ve lost this month to the holiday.

Here are three things I am focusing on while going through every single word:

  • The setting is a character, and it hates all the other characters. It reveals one character’s secrets while throwing another character down the wrong trail. It doesn’t just rain on the parade, it blows hats off heads and eats coins down a sewer drain. It hides keys on a cluttered desk. It stubs toes on uneven ground. It loves to make a ruckus.
  • New allies are hard to get, and old ones might be less than true.
  • Focus on emotions. Every important character has a feeling, a reflex reaction, and an intended reaction.

I’m not saying that I am doing the best with this all the time, but I am focusing on it. It’s empowering to see my writing transformed into how I see it in my head. Well, it isn’t all there yet. I need to give it a bit more visual nature, then it’ll match my head. Point is, it is better than it was in the past. Problem is it takes time. Ughh.

Anyway here are the first 307 words of The King’s Mutt, followed by the first 307  words of the re-do.

I stopped trying to sleep, popped an eye open, and resisted the urge to interrupt the princess and her lover in the adjoining room. Moans and stifled cries punctuated what would have been a night to take a long walk in–moonless, the stars took the stage and cast the world outside in a silvery glow, making the water in the bay below assume the resemblence of fresh snow, making the cobblestones gleam as after a raifull. I sat on my straw mattress and glared at the curtain which separated my sleeping cubby from Felicity’s bed chamber, a thin silk draping which served only to give the princess privacy against having to see me. A muffled laugh and a giggle erupted, and I contemplated for an instant what would happen if I walked in on them.
Felicity would send me out again.
I sighed.
Then I remembered what night it was. There had been a dance, an informal ball mostly put on because the nobles were bored and our Thean guests intrigued the ladies…Felicity in particular had been infatuated with the Prince-General, and her attentions had been bothersome to him, he’d asked me to introduce him to someone who had no interest whatsoever in him so he could escape her. …and now I realized the music from the dancing hall had died–possibly some time ago, from the quiet echoing in the air when those two next to me were silent.
Then I remembered I was supposed to be doing the same thing Felicity was doing at this very moment. My heart stilled and I almost wanted to thank Felicity for her night time activities.
Queen Isabella would be furious with me if she caught me in my quarters come morning. I was supposed to be with the Thean representative, or at least one of them.

And now for the remake, which I am tempted to call Whispers in the Corridors.

I eyed the shadows, telling myself I was only shaking with the cold. I couldn’t stop constantly checking. What if it was discovered I could read? What would the Queen do? But I wouldn’t be seen. The Thean guests were at the ball, it would be rude to return so soon. However, I knew too well the stories about this foreign Prince-General, about how he conquered all he set his gaze upon. Cities far greater than ours crumpled beneath the weight of his army.

I’m here ensuring his visit is only to discuss settling a trade dispute. His ally and our Queen started a war over the quantity of kippers received three months ago. They’d called her a liar, and she accused them of the same. Neither side was lying. They didn’t know the whole truth. The Resistance had shorted the crates of fish. We had meant to cause tension, but instead the Theans butted in with their soldiers. We hadn’t planned on a war. Though…it had killed one of our heirs.

The parchment flickered in a draft as the start of winter worked its way inside the castle. Shivering, I glanced at the fire and willed it to fill the chambers before the dancers were back, wishing the princess hadn’t taken the cloak I had stitched. My fingers paused over an entry, and I studied the context of a word. It had the root war and a suffix implying active participation. It was followed by another word, crushing. I was hardly fluent in Thean, but it seemed the kipper-diversion may have been too effective in causing all sorts of political tension.

The door shut behind me. I jumped and froze. Oh, swamp rats and herring bones, who was it? Before I could check, a ragged voice said in my language, “Turn around.”

I sighed. Why had I listened to my mother?

The biggest difference between these two is the tension. I feel the second one does a better job of establishing the stakes, as well, but I just wrote it so I may yet decide to change my mind. Hello, Perfectionism, is that you or is it your often-mistaken twin, Readability? I will let you guys know when I’ve figured that out.

Anyway, back to enjoying having the apartment to myself for a little while. We will see if I can squeeze in a post between now and New Year’s.




2 thoughts on “Ahh, to settle down a little

  1. Ah, Nicolette, I can relate to your spouse/TV situation; my wife and I suffer the same malady. Though, most of the time, I’m the one putting the headphones on! I must confess, however, that she crashes fairly early in the evening, so I get a quiet house more than not. Good job on the edits. The second passage is definitely superior in mood when compared to the first. Keep it up!

    1. Aha, that’s too funny! I like to go to sleep earlier than my husband does by about 2-3 hours. I really need to just wake up earlier than him to get quiet hours in the house, but he’s a cuddle bug and I’m too much of a sucker for it.
      And I’m glad to know which version you prefer. It takes a lot of work (surprise!) but I’m more than happy to do it if it pays off. The first 300 words took forever, and the next 500 still took ages. I’m hoping to re-write so my future writing will be better and need less extensive edits. Nothing has taught me so much about writing as going through all these re-writes.

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