A Series of Memos

Every year, in my D&D group, we do a little write-up of how our character spent the holidays. It’s basically a fun little creative-writing exercise that occasionally builds some plot points and nets us a couple of XP. Last year our Druid had a religious experience, my paladin got very drunk with his order, our artificer attended the Artificer’s Gala, which ended in explosions, and the thief was nowhere near anywhere, not at all, absolutely nowhere, and had the alibi to prove it.

This was my contribution this year. Useful knowledge: my paladin Rooster belongs to a group called the Order of the Silver Weasel who hunt demons and are best known for razing towns and sowing fields with salt, and whom many of the other paladinly orders feel are a little bit out there. They view all orphanages as a front for Children of the Corn-style horror and orphans are one of the inherently evil races.

Rooster reports to the Lord Marshall of the West, currently head of the order in a town called Marksville. For Christmas, he brought them a dead blue dragon.

 

From the Desk of the Lord Marshall of the West,
Temple of the Silver Weasel

Memo to all Servants of the Weasel in Marksville, re: Winter Feast

Okay, lads, here’s the problem. We have to do something really spectacular this year to prove our place in the community as more than just burners-of-towns and smiters-of-demons. The Temple of Tyr was really cutting about last year’s Swords-for-Tots debacle, and they just won’t let it go. This year, we need to change that.

Fortunately, our temporary knight-errant in residence was kind enough to provide most of a dead blue dragon for the soup kitchen. The Alchemist’s Guild says they can build a deep-fat fryer that’ll cook it up nice, but just in case, we’re keeping a couple of drumsticks and the soup bones aside. Weasel knows where they’re getting all the fat from, but the one without eyebrows told me not to worry about it, so we’ll see.

I expect to see everyone turned out on the eve of the solstice to serve soup. Let’s get out there and help some homeless people!

Yours in the Weasel,

the Lord Marshall


From the Desk of the Lord Marshall of the West,
Temple of the Silver Weasel

Memo to all Servants of the Weasel in Marksville, re: Winter Feast

Some of you may have noticed the smoking crater outside the Alchemist’s Guild. Fortunately, we still have plenty of meat, since they only got half the dragon in before it blew up. There will still be plenty of soup for all the needy in Marksville. Let’s prove that the Weasel is foremost in charity as well as mayhem!

Yours in the Weasel,

the Lord Marshall


From the Desk of the Lord Marshall of the West,
Temple of the Silver Weasel

Memo to all Servants of the Weasel in Marksville, re: Winter Feast

It has come to my attention that some of the younger paladins—you know who you are—are rounding up homeless people from other towns and bringing them to Marksville for the Solstice. While I am sure that your hearts are in the right place, a charity drive is not like a cattle drive. We have had complaints.

Yours,

the Lord Marshall


From the Desk of the Lord Marshall of the West,
Temple of the Silver Weasel

Memo to all Servants of the Weasel in Marksville, re: Winter Feast

By the hairs on the ass of the Great Skunk, what the hell is going through your tiny little brains? Yes, we’re in a friendly competition with the Temple of Tyr about how many homeless people we can feed, but that does not mean that you get to go out and burn people’s houses to improve your numbers! You don’t get to make more homeless people! The Weasel does not approve of that! Anyone caught doing so will be fined and will do a vigil on their knees in the snow.

the Lord Marshall

From the Desk of the Lord Marshall of the West,
Temple of the Silver Weasel

Memo to all Servants of the Weasel in Marksville, re: Winter Feast

It has come to my attention that at least one of the homes burned as mentioned in the previous memo was an orphanage. Those responsible are excused from vigil. (Good job, lads.)

the Lord Marshall

From the Desk of the Lord Marshall of the West,
Temple of the Silver Weasel

Memo to all Servants of the Weasel in Marksville, re: Winter Feast

Okay, I blame myself. When I said that we were in a friendly competition with the Temple of Tyr, I should have placed greater emphasis on “friendly.” Please untie the priests of Tyr and return them to the temple. There will be no disciplinary action taken at this time, as long as the priests are returned immediately, but I would urge all those involve to meditate upon the meaning of Lawful Good.

the Lord Marshall


From the Desk of the Lord Marshall of the West,
Temple of the Silver Weasel

To His Grace, Lord Justiciar of the Temple of Divine Tyr, Marksville

I am very, very sorry about the incident. As near as I can tell, some of our younger and less-bright recruits came upon several of your priests and mistook their caroling for speaking in demonic tongues. Your priests have been returned, hopefully none the worse for wear, and again, I apologize. I can assure you that disciplinary action will be taken immediately.

Sincerely,

the Lord Marshall

From the Desk of the Lord Marshall of the West,
Temple of the Silver Weasel

Memo to all Servants of the Weasel in Marksville, re: Winter Feast

It has come to my attention that some members of the order are attempting to pad the attendance at the soup kitchen by hiring prostitutes to take part. While I applaud your enthusiasm at ministering to the dregs of society, some of those women make upwards of two hundred gold pieces an hour, and the Weasel’s treasury is not bottomless. Let’s try to confine ourselves to the less fortunate.

the Lord Marshall

From the Desk of the Lord Marshall of the West,
Temple of the Silver Weasel

Memo to all Servants of the Weasel in Marksville, re: Winter Feast

Kobolds are not less fortunate. That is all.

the Lord Marshall

From the Desk of the Lord Marshall of the West,
Temple of the Silver Weasel

Memo to all Servants of the Weasel in Marksville, re: Winter Feast

Damnit, people, there is not a Yuletide event called “the Running of the Homeless.” You stop that right now.

the Lord Marshall

From the Desk of the Lord Marshall of the West,
Temple of the Silver Weasel

Memo to all Servants of the Weasel in Marksville, re: Final Winter Feast Attendance Numbers

Well, we had a few rough patches this year, lads, but all in all, I am pleased to announce that the Weasel’s Winter Soup Kitchen was a rousing success. We had eight whole homeless people attend, a vast increase over last year’s numbers, and two of them even asked for seconds! The Temple of Tyr will certainly know who’s foremost in charity in Marksville, although I’m sure we all wish them the very best of luck in cleaning up after that inexplicable hill giant attack on Solstice Eve.

Please report to the treasurer for any reimbursements required (Note: Prostitutes are disallowed, as mentioned previously) and to the infirmary if you celebrated a little too hard following the close of the soup kitchen.

Yours in the Weasel,

the Lord Marshall

From the Desk of the Lord Marshall of the West,
Temple of the Silver Weasel

To: Adventurer’s Co-op Local #649

Looking to sell eleven hundred gallons of blue dragon soup stock. Organic, no pesticides, so far as I know dragon was never on antibiotics or steroids. Mostly de-electrified. Only used to drown one kobold. Can be delivered. Please advise.

Sincerely,

the Lord Marshall

Not dead!

I’m not dead! Just busy.

Actually, that’s a total lie. I am not busy. I am between busy-nesses, I have handed everything in early and waiting on editors and art directors, and so I am playing a lot of Skyrim….mmm….Skyrim….which is significant in having more cabbages per capita than any fantasy game ever made*, and working on various other projects that no one has bought yet, one of which is possibly brilliant, and the other one of which is totally self-indulgent and might best be described as “Look at me! I’m writing a story about a heroine who is way too much like me! Including her obsession with gardening and urge to laugh wildly during solemn occasions!” I suspect it may be tripe, but I am not worrying about that too much while writing it, because I am allowed to produce as much tripe as I want when I am off the clock. And the other one is definitely possibly brilliant, and would be in the same genre as Dragonbreath, and thus potentially marketable and has an armored riding quail named Mumfrey, which is just inherently awesome, damnit.

As I only get so many words a day—apparently—I bought bricks today so that I can do something useful in the morning, and I should probably figure out if I can make the leather thing I want to make, since otherwise I have a taxidermy mount covered in tinfoil and clenched in a vise on my workbench for no reason at all, and we can’t have that. (My first experiment with vegetable-tanned leather…we’ll see if I like how it handles. I have always wanted to make leather masks, and if the material does not make me cry, I may give it a try. But we’ll see.)

My editor called me today and told me that she holds me up as an example of terrifyingly efficient time-management, and I tried to explain that it was nothing of the sort, but if you do a comic for seven years, you learn to draw fast, goddamnit, and they’re very short books, and then I realized that I was trying to bludgeon the compliment to death rather than let it eat me, so I stopped and said “Thank you.” (I am not actually that fast a writer, but the one skillset I learned in life was not dithering. I can let a sentence go as a good and serviceable sentence without requiring it to wear a little saddle and win the Kentucky Derby. Books, in my world, are made primarily of good and serviceable sentences, surrounding a few polished jewels of prose–if you insist on polishing every single one, I suspect you get a book that appears to have been Bedazzled, or possibly Vajazzled if you’re writing that kind of book, and the glare becomes blinding, to say nothing of the smell of hot glue. Excuse me, my metaphor got out of hand, terribly sorry, will pay for all the damages…)

 

 

*You go raid bandit hideouts, and they have barrels full of food! And there are empty beer bottles on the ground! It’s like they actually eat food, instead of living on adventurers and easily portable treasures! WHAT MADNESS IS THIS!?

Often Wrong

So I’m working on yet another story, and I’m not gonna give you any details, for fear of jinxing it, but it’s…flowing, in that terrifying way that some stories do, where you go to jot down a line and it picks you up and throws you down and the line turns into 1200 words without you being quite aware of it.

I fear this. Catholicism is imprinted deeply in my family’s DNA, and thus anything that comes easily is automatically suspect and probably undeserved, but beyond that, stories that grow too quickly and easily often lack backbone, and when the words suddenly stop being easy and you have to gouge each one out from the stones inside your chest, well…sometimes that story dries up and blows away, and that’s the end of that. So I am approaching it with caution, in case it turns on me.

This does, however, put me in mind of a couple of comments on the last post I did about writing advice, where a surprising number of people said that their problem with writing was that in five minutes, they know the story and then they’re bored.

Hmm.

Obviously if you are bored it is difficult to write without also boring the reader, but I would suggest anyone suffering from this give it a go anyway, at least once, because even when I think I know a story, it’s amazing how often I turn out to be wrong.

Even in a fairy-tale retelling, where you pretty well know the plot and what happens, it’s amazing how much room there is to be wrong.

When I started writing this thing, I knew the heroine’s father was not around for some reason, I knew that she was a gardener and had a couple of sisters (one does, in fairy tales) and I knew more or less the plot.

I did not know that she had a very stupid horse that stumbled when he tried to run, that the hero was a smartass (I didn’t know that, in fact, until he opened his mouth and said something sarcastic) that the plot would involve birch trees, that one of the heroine’s sisters was dangerously insightful and the other one cried non-stop, and that a scene I’ve had floating around in my skull for years would suddenly glom onto the end of the story like a remora.

This is a lot of things not to know when the plot, being a fairy-tale, is rolled out in front of you like a forest path, with helpful crones and talking animals to point the way, excellent lighting, and complimentary copies of The Hero With A Thousand Faces placed every thirty feet.

It’s much more pronounced writing something like Dragonbreath, where, in fifteen thousand words, I generally find out that something tied into something else in a way that I never expected and I wander around going “I AM A GENIUS!”*

Someone—I think it might be Patricia Wrede, but hell if I can remember—said that her method of writing is to outline the book, write a chapter, say “No, no, this is all wrong!” and throw out the outline, write another outline, write another chapter, say “No, no, this is much worse!” throw out the outline, write a new outline, write another chapter…well, you see the pattern here. That’s a lot of outlining, certainly more than I would do, but it’s gratifying to see that other people are also often very wrong in what their story was about and where it was going.

To go at it another way, there are books that are intensely plot driven. They know who they are, and may be excused to go sit in the hall and pray for our souls. Most of the books that I enjoy, however, and certainly the ones that I write, are basically an excuse to hang out with the characters, and occasionally in that world. The plot is important, but the book is a great deal more than the plot.

One of my absolute favorite books has a plot as follows: There’s a princess. She doesn’t fit in well, so she takes up killing dragons, and then there’s a really big dragon that she has to kill. Then she kills a wizard, who was sending an army to take over the kingdom, and comes home with the magical McGuffin and saves the day.

And this is, more or less, the plot. And the fact that I have reduced Robin McKinley’s elegant and brilliant Hero and the Crown to that synopsis means that a YA fantasy hit squad will be coming for me shortly, because that is so completely and utterly not what the book is about, and does massive injustice to a story that I read until the binding fell apart and I had to buy another copy. Knowing the plot of that book does no good whatsoever—you have to sit down and read it, because the plot is the least of what the book is.

If that makes any sense.

So, anyway. If you genuinely know everything about the story already, them’s the breaks. I’d suggest trying to write it anyway. It is possible that it will plod along in exactly the fashion you envisioned, in which case your boredom is entirely understandable, but hey, you never know. You might just be wrong.

 

 

*Still outnumbered by the amount of time I spend wandering around going “I AM THE STUPIDEST THING IN CREATION AND ALSO A HACK AND I THINK I FEEL A ZIT COMING UP ON MY FOREHEAD.”

Possibly it needs more positive reinforcement programming.

So today I got on the Wii, as I do sporadically to graph my weight, and it told me that I was overweight.

Well, first it yelled at me for not getting on in several days, to which I yelled “I’ve been sick, you electronic bastard!” and then it told me I was overweight.

Just overweight. Not obese. I finally ticked over into the lower section of the chart.

What exercise and mulch-slinging failed to achieve for months was finally accomplished by a bout of stomach flu that left me about as interested in food as I am in recreational phlebotomy.  This is not exactly what I was hoping for my triumphal weight loss scenario, as it means that when I am finally feeling 100%, I will probably go right back up, but at least I am close to the edge.

(It should be noted at this point that “overweight” by Wii standards is the best I can ever hope to achieve–in order to reach what it considers “optimal” I would have to have bones surgically removed. I came within ten pounds of it once, at the lowest end of my antidepressants-have-killed-food-for-me bout, and my initial delight at effortless weight loss had by then skewed to “This isn’t fun any more! I’m scared and I want it to stop!”  and my nearest and dearest were uttering phrases like “drowned rat” and plying me with cheesecake. I have an hourglass figure, and not an egg-timer either. And really, I’m okay with that. There are benefits.)

Now, as I said, not really a celebratory thing, since it was about the worst form of temporary weight loss, but goddamnit, the Wii has been riding my ass for months! It gives me a fat icon and makes the little uh-oh! noise when measuring my weight and pretends to forget my name if I don’t log in for a month. It is a passive-aggressive little shit.

So what is its response when I finally drop below one of its arbitrary boundaries?

Nothing.

My fat icon did not get downgraded to a slightly less fat icon. (Oh, c’mon! All the work you put into the Mii system, and you can’t do a little animation of losing a half-inch worth of love handles?) It did not throw confetti, cheer, say “Wow, look at that!” or anything else. It told me I was overweight in the same perky-delivery-of-terrible-news voice that a candy-striper uses to tell you that you’ve soiled yourself, then informed me that I was down by half a pound and tried to shove balance games at me.

Stupid Wii. I’m starting to think my friend who told it that she was six feet tall just to shut it up may have had the right idea…