As With the Shepherd's Panpipe Playing

Plenilune was not done surprising her.

You must excuse my burgeoning curiosity.  I have finished (with a day to spare, but don't tell anyone yet) I have finished Actually Finishing Something July and am looking on beyond my scene to what comes next.  I have a cup of tea, there is a beautiful rain coming down, there is a cat on my lap, and lovely, sleepy music is playing in the background.  It is the perfect situation in which to write.  So you must excuse my curiosity.  I dare swear anything will remind you of your novel when that is all you are thinking about, but now I want to know:

What do you think of when you hear the name "Plenilune"?

As evidenced by my in-progress giveaway, I like names.  I like coming up with them; I like, even more, having come up with a really good one.  I don't always make them up myself, sometimes they are preexisting names: "plenilune," like "adamantine," is not a word of my own invention, but it is one of the most important titles in the whole story.  So tell me what you think!  What images does it conjure for you?  Does it sound odd?  Does it sound pretty?  Does it sound like Bilbo with a head-cold?  I want to see what the readers think! 

Guess & Giveaway

Those of you who know me, or even have a passing acquaintance with me, can probably guess that I love coming up with chapter titles.  It isn't always easy - in fact, it's rarely easy - but getting just that right turn of phrase that grabs at the reader's heartstrings is such a thrill to me.  So here I am, hosting a guess-and-giveaway for The Shadow Things!  If you can guess my favourite chapter title out of the twenty chapter titles of The Shadow Things, you win a free, autographed copy of my book.  (As there are more than twenty people following my blog, if more than one of your guess my favourite chapter title, I will draw a name from among the winning contestants to be The Winner.)  The giveaway starts today July 27th and will end August 11th.  Spread the word.  The game's afoot!

chapter titles

Hoofbeats of Tir
The Brown Voice
The God of the Wooden Sword
The Archer's Cuff
Bride Fires Burning
The Immortality of the Soul
The Holy Place
The Night of Ghosts
Funeral Pyre
Chieftan Slave
Shadow Things
Slave Wife
Another Ill Wind
Black Wolf, Black Smoke
Woman Trouble
Wind in the Wheat Sheaves
Circle Wood
The Long Dark
Scarlet Dawn

A Flicker-Flame of a Party

Here are the third set of questions for Katiebug's Actually Finishing Something July program.  There is only one week left and only one more set of questions to look forward to.  I really enjoyed this and I hate seeing it end.  Maybe I can convince her to do Actually Finishing Something August...

week three questions

You've little less than a week left in the challenge.  Now that the end is in sight, do you think you'll reach your goal?

Unless something unexpected arises in the scene, yes, I think so.  At this point it is pretty heavily dialogue-driven, which can be very tricky as I am juggling so many brains, I cannot always think all their thoughts very quickly to keep the writing process flowing smoothly. 

For me (Katie), the last week and a half has been so chaotic that I've hardly had the time to sit down, let alone write.  How have you balanced life with your writing goals?  Late night writing?  Scribbling down a few lines while waiting in the grocery check-out line?

My life hasn't been chaotic, but this is the busiest time of the year for the office in which I work so the real world has been needing my presence more than usual.  But I still have time in my schedule to sit down and write, either in the mornings or in the evenings.

Have you written mostly in computer programs such as Word, or do you prefer scribbling in notebooks?

I think I have written almost exclusively, if not entirely exclusively, in my Word document.  I do keep a notebook - several, in fact - but as this scene follows along the chronological path of the manuscript I find it better to write in the main document with the whole manuscript back of me rather than floating out in space in a notebook or a separate document.  The psychosis run deep in this one.

Have any new characters jumped out of your story?  If so, tell us about them!

Yes, two, at most three.  By necessity I must have Gabriel, Skander Rime's huntsman, who had not previously impacted Margaret's sphere at all; there is also, by reference, a man named Charlock, and his son, who makes a bloodied appearance in the scene. Gabriel may, perhaps, make further appearances in the story, but I cannot speak for the other two.

Share a snippet of your recent writing.

Through the ringing in her ears Margaret realized it was Aikin Ironside himself who was speaking, his dark auburn hair a mess with leaves and his face rather pale so that, looking up, she realized he had two stark brown freckles on his left cheekbone. But the tawny of his eyes was laughing and his smile flashed white with a companionable triumph which made Margaret warm where the boar’s tusk would have hit her.

Sometimes the most mundane, simple of things can spark one's creativity.  Have you come across anything, simple yet special, about your daily life, inspiring you to write?

To be truthful, my showers are probably the most inspiring parts of my life.  I think many people find this to be the case as well: I hammered out a significant part of Plenilune's plot (which has nothing to do with this immediate scene) while I was in the shower only a few nights ago, and otherwise I find it very easy to get lost in my plot and rattle about with ideas, hampered by nothing more than having to remember to condition my hair.

Are there any pictures or images inspiring bits of your story?

Not really; it's usually the other way around.  I did sign up for a Pinterest account and I have had fun locating pictures that accurately portray parts of my story.  At this point I do not remember which came first - I think it was the idea for the scene - but four months ago I finished a book on medieval hunting as research for Plenilune and I really enjoyed that.  It has been a great help, it has given me gobs of otherwise useless factoids, and I just frankly liked it.

Introduce us to the antagonist of your story and tell us his favourite dessert.

Oh, you know him.  That's Rupert de la Mare, of course.  I know I have said it before, but it just keeps growing more fascinating.  The man is amazing.  I like him in an analogous way to how much I like the portrayal of Loki in the Avengers movies.  He is complex, he is conflicted, he is firmly convinced in his own mind that he is, not only right, but good.  He sees the world clearly out of the eyes of his paradigm and it is a lot of fun to discover and work with that paradigm and see the way Rupert lives. 

She looked hard into his cool, unblinking eyes. “Really? Not even Malbrey? not even Bloodburn?” 

“Them less than most, because they will do what I ask—and yet for that very reason I strangely loathe them.” He pulled down his brows and his smile, which had been bitter and mirthless, ran from his face as he turned to look about him at the people in the room. “They are all little to me, silver- and sanguine-coloured, petty in their finery like chanticleers in their barnyard runs. They have little thought for ought else. They have their pride. They have their stubborn self-wills which I will break—” 

“But you will loathe them all the more because they break,” Margaret finished, finding, with a curious mingled horror and pity, that she understood. 

“Yes,” he said, a sudden melancholy catching at his brows. “I will loathe them because of that.”

Pick, from all of your July writing, your favourite three lines said by your characters.

"Someone kill it, please.  She's all right, only tumbled a bit."
Aikin Ironside

"So.  You have been told.  You are one, I suppose, to know that we are not all mask and gala here."

"I think it would curdle your food either way, coz."
Rupert de la Mare

Any advice for your fellow writers as we reach the final stretch of this challenge?

Shoo, not really!  Everyone's life is so varied and different, the best I could say is to keep writing when you can - and keep reading when you can, because a good dose of someone else's work often helps keep your own creativity flowing.

“To think,” she remarked in her old familiar, steady voice, “I was concerned that there might be wolf-hunts in these parts.” 

The Scent of Hawthorn In the Sun

For me this land, that sea, these airs, 
Those folk and fields suffice.
What purple Southern pomp
Can match our changeful Northern skies,
Black with December snows unshed
Or pearled with August haze -
The clanging arch of steel-grey March
Or June's long-lighted days?
from the roman centurion's song, rudyard kipling

I had not expected to participate in July's session of Character Letters (hosted by Rosamund Gregory of Shoes of Paper, Stockings of Buttermilk), but I appear to be doing it anyway.  It is only a very short letter, hardly a peep through the keyhole, but I hope you like it all the same.

* * * * *

To Sparling, Champion of Thrasymene, and his Sovereigns Their Graces Black Malkin, Grane, and Woodbird Swan-neck.

Ethandune, 26th of the Buck Moon, 693.

Sir and Graces—Greetings.
            I have received your letter of distress and, more importantly, the news of the Carmarthen uprising.  We have all been made aware of the turn of events.  I am sending Capys up to you: he is one with me in everything and will stand in my stead, as I cannot in person come to aid you.  Be sure to heed him, give him all support he requires; and be sure to look to your left flank—it has ever been your blind spot.  Capys’ strength lies in the right alae: if the ground is favourable, give him that advantage and with him do not hesitate—I repeat do not hesitate—to employ, as FitzDraco has put it, terminal force to put the Carmarthen down.  We have not time nor patience for this and a single killing blow is paramount. I am well aware of what memories this order may dredge up but now is not a time for slack measures.  I am not in a position to come up to help you myself but know that if I must come, I will come in the height of bad temper to do what needs to be done.  There are more things in heaven and hell you would be more lief to meet than I in foul humour.  For the Honour of Thrasymene and the sake of us all, hold the line.  We are depending on you.
            The blood is from the blackthorns.  My regards, the temperature they always are.


A Fair And Cheerful Face

 [He] came clipping lightly up the path, the face-guard of his helm thrust back, a fair and cheerful face revealed beneath.  

I've decided to do something different for this next indulgent Beautiful People post.  I have flagrantly disregarded all rules for a reasonable number of posts and am doing as many as I like and need.  Last time I did two people, Ely Jacland and Periot Survance together.  I am doing two again now, but instead of taking apart two characters, I am taking apart one with the mind of another.  In this post I will be looking at Centurion of Darkling, and it will be Rupert de la Mare whose opinion on the fellow we will be asking.  As Lewis prefaced his book The Screwtape Letters, please remember that not everything Rupert says may be true.  This may give you a glimpse into both of them and will, hopefully, be refreshingly different from the normal mix of things.

Centurion of Darkling

1.  When did you first meet Centurion?

I first met him when I was thirteen years old—he was then ten—at an open-air party my father held at Talus Perey.  I was formally introduced to Centurion and expected—as adults are wont to expect of the younger generation—to ‘get on’ with Centurion from the outset.  I did not.  I remember a lanky, bony, open-faced whelp who, for all his coltish joints stuck out sharply at all points, had little backbone and too much smile: a gullible sort of boy who seemed hell-bent on annoying me without ever realizing he was doing so.  It would have been better for us both if he had known what he was about: I might have put a fist between his eyes and that would have been the end of it, and the whelp would have been put in his place.  But he tagged along more with my brother’s crowd than myself, which fact I have never determined if it annoyed me more or less than tagging after me might have done. 

2.  What was your initial impression of him?

A manless mother’s-boy with not an original thought in his brain.

3.  Did your first opinion of him remain the same?  Did it grow worse or did it improve upon closer acquaintance?

My annoyance has only grown as he and I have.  At ten years old Centurion was a thoughtless, harmless boy; at twenty-two years he is old enough to pose a serious nuisance.

4.  When was the last lengthy conversation that you had with Centurion, and what was it about?

Last Hare Moon, when the men of the Honours met to wrestle with the question of who would next be Overlord, he was one among many who tried to persuade me from the running.  I make an effort to have private conversations with none of them, as I trust none of them—I believe the sentiment is reciprocated—but he did manage to pin me down awkwardly in the hall one afternoon and he asked me to tell him why I was so intent upon being nominated for Overlord.  I asked him to put forward a more competent candidate and, as he fell silent with no answer—they none of them had an answer—I told him that was why and moved on.  That is the lengthiest conversation I have had to endure with Centurion’s face in front of my own.

5.  Is Centurion fairly gregarious or is he naturally withdrawn?

This is perhaps what I most despise about Centurion.  He is all effusiveness to the point of being cloying.  He is not abnormally talkative—if he were I might have quietly strangled him and put him out of all our misery—but the man fair oozes an ingratiating atmosphere like a little chanticleer who thinks the world is his run and all the hens in it.  I have, until now, had only to dismiss him from my mind to save myself further annoyance; but now with Margaret, who does not know him, joining social circles I must keep my eye on him.  He had better know that I am not above ordering chanticleer for supper.

6.  Does your opinion of Centurion colour your impression of his appearance?

Would it not have been better had Centurion been thrown from a horse in his youth, which accident left him maimed!  The lanky, smiling boy has grown into a tall but admittedly well-proportioned and handsome young man, marred only by the smile which should not be there as often as it is.  Alas, we grow our boys to be handsome brutes and Centurion is no exception.  A piece of wit, an ingratiating attitude, and a striking figure make for what turns the heads of women possessing rather less conviction.  Unfortunately, Plenilune is lacking in women of conviction.

7.  What might change your opinion of him, for good or bad?

I cannot conceive of my opinion being moved for good.  Just about anyone can do a good turn once in a while without changing his spots.  My opinion would be darkened to discover Centurion even less a man than I presupposed.

8.  Opinions aside, do you think Centurion has any outstanding skills or qualities that you can’t help but admire? 

His liver has colour, I will give him that: he is no coward.  If he has aught else beneath his belt I do not know, but you can always count on finding him in the thick of conflict and, if I should find him dead, I can be sure there will be no holes in his back.  He has a star-kissed luck with getting his own way—which some of us have to fight for otherwise, not having that smile—and he has, as I have never had, a natural deftness for sums.  But he is wretched at chess.

9.  Would you want him to cover your back in a tight place?

I think I should rather go to Hell, which is always at my back and a far more pleasant friend.  I cannot imagine Centurion being close enough to me to be in a position to cover my back—had he more conviction I would imagine him being one to put a knife in it first.  I have no illusions about where I lie in his heart; nor he, I think, about where he lies in mine.

10.  If it came down to the wire and Centurion was in mortal danger, would you or would you not save him, perhaps to the loss of your own life?

No.  People die, and there is nothing that can be done for that.  That is the way of things.  It would be more expedient for Plenilune that I live and even Centurion knows that to put oneself in mortal danger is to take one’s life in one’s hands.  He, and he alone, is responsible for his life.  I am not his keeper.

“A good morrow to you, my lady!” he said in a warm, husky voice which made her think of autumn nut-gathering.  He looked to her feet and back to her face, eyebrows rampant under the embossed rim of his helm.  “And sure I know all the pretty faces of Plenilune, but here is a fair one I have not seen—passing fair, I think.  Is there a price on your face, stranger, that you hide it from the other girls and have not come out till now?”

Shout Out To the Hearts You'll Break

Author and Book Interview!

I'm proud to announce another author and book interview for myself and The Shadow Things, this time hosted by Rachel of The Inkpen Authoress.  She levelled some very good questions at me (and I hope I levelled some good answers back) and we had a good time.  (She was also extremely flattering, which I may or may not be able to handle.)  I'll give you a sneak-peek here, but go check out her blog and see what we had to say about Britain and Indi and the whole scope of The Shadow Things!  That's why we do interviews.


Was there a particular dream, thought, picture, etc. that first inspired The Shadow Things?

Yes, actually: a very heart-wrenching little novel by Rosemary Sutcliff.  It gave me a vague, watercolour kind of image for The Shadow Things; additionally I was inspired by a familiar notion that men have always held, a truth we can find in Scripture, and is probably most succinctly summed up in the words of C.S. Lewis: “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” 

Intrigued?  Read the rest here!

Peacefully I Am Killed By You

...she told the landscape.  
How quietly you break me into pieces.

It is now the end of Week Two of Actually Finishing Something July; when my uncle asked me if it would really take twenty days (at the time) for me to finish my designated scene, I informed him that, judging from how fast I am not writing it, yes, it will probably take me twenty days.  How ardently I play ring-around-the-rosy with this troublesome text!  But I am pushing forward, a little at a time, and headway has been made: thanks largely to Katie, not myself.

week two questions

Be truthful.  How has the first week-and-a-half of your personal writing challenge progressed?

I have written about as much as I thought I would, and not as much as I had hoped to.  One can always find time to write, but my mental faculties have been recruited elsewhere throughout these past two weeks and this scene is simply not coming kindly on its own.  I'm finding it is not a hard scene, but one that is taking constant supervision to keep it moving forward.

Did you reach your weekly goal or wordcount?

I neglected to make any weekly goals.  I think that might make too much pressure than I can handle and then nothing would get done, but one never knows until one is squashed between the rock and the hard place what one can really do when one doesn't have a choice otherwise.

Are you finding it easier to work with a goal in mind? Or does it make you nervous and even less inclined to get the work done?

A combination of both, I'd say.  The deadline does keep my mind from jigging willfully off elsewhere and planning other scenes (other scenes come uninvited, but that's not the same thing); but deadlines have also always paralyzed me to varying degrees and made progress difficult.  In the case of Actually Finishing Something July, I tel myself that this shouldn't be because, unlike school and work, no one is going to penalize me for not making my deadline.  But there is something, no matter how hard you try to sugar-coat it, there is something unavoidably ominous about the word "DEADLINE."

Did you do most of your writing in the morning, afternoon, or evening?  When do you like to write?

I have done most of my writing either in the morning or in the evening.  My afternoons are often spent elsewhere.  I really prefer having a long, open day at home in which I can stretch out the expanse of my imagination and know it is unfettered by having to leave the house at a certain time to be someplace else at a certain time.  Time is such a nuisance. One never has enough of it, and yet it is always impinging.

What music has been inspiring you as you write?

I have been listening to Shearwater's "You As You Were" (which fits another scene in Plenilune rather better) and Heather Dale's "Sherwood" (which is a gorgeous instrumental piece that is half-melancholy and just right), and the song "Lothlorien" from the London musical "The Lord of the Rings," which seems to be intent on breaking my heart with its beauty.

Share a snippet of your writing!

Like adamant, the pounding blows of his words only drove her into a smaller, harder, more brightly-furious lump, and she dared defy him for one moment, for Skander’s sake and for Periot’s, and for Ely Jacland’s, and for one small shard of a child’s prayer that she had clung to in her most tormented moments.

Share your favourite "Ah HA!" writing moment.  Have you written anything that made you sit back and think, "Okay, this is awesome," during the last week and a half?

Yes, actually, I have!  But I can't share it because it would effectively kick the whole plot into your laps, clear as day for anyone to see, and I really don't like showing my hand before I've shown you a physical copy of the book.  I will say that it took my quite by surprise and the enormity of the accidental cleverness still has me smiling to myself as I write along.

Any problem spots, scenes that are proving hard to work, or characters giving you grief?  If so, how did you overcome these obstacles?

It is actually Margaret, of all people, who is giving me grief.  Not that she has done anything wrong - she has been pretty brilliant thus far - but the whole atmosphere of the scene is one of an outcast soul, very cold and sharply painful, with very little hope of warmth and betterment at the end, and that makes for difficult writing.  Who wants to go write that kind of atmosphere?  I think the problem at this point is that I'm weary of the acute sense of lonesomeness on Margaret's part.  I want it in there and it is exactly what the atmosphere needs to be, but day after day of writing that kind of feeling gets to your soul.

Share your favourite line said by a character during this week and a half of writing.

I never asked for them to like me,” Rupert said. “Liking is a small, dear door out which you pass in the night, unseen—but should any see you go out by it, anyone desirous of seizing your house knows by which little secret postern to come in and catch you unawares. I never asked for them to like me. I like, as to that, none of them.”

How are you going to move forward in this challenge?  It's been more than a week-and-a-half since the start (July 4th).  Are you changing your wordcount or page goal for this coming week?

In light of my last answer, I'm going to hone in on some of the characters that will bear the story on beyond this scene and become key players in the rest of the book.  I want readers to get a feel for them so that went they meet again beyond the New Ivy gala, everyone will feel familiar with the cast.  Additionally, I need something to warm the cockles of my heart.

Believe That When I See It

I find I work badly under deadlines and pressure.  I do wonder if I was named "Jenny" for a reason: I get down and lean on my heels and refuse to move when people try to enforce deadlines on me.  I prefer freedom of movement.  My sister-in-law calls me (complimentary, I think) a "free spirit."  Which means I don't function very well in the normal world.  But sometimes even I get fed up with my procrastination and have to ply the whip.  So, thanks to Katiebug, I'm going to make an attempt to join "Actually Finishing Something July."  Like Howl I'll probably tell myself I'm not doing it so that I won't scare myself, and I actually will do it.  It's uncanny how alike Howl and I are...  But here we go.  I'm biting the proverbial bullet. Or arrow, as the case may be.

week one questions

What is your writing goal?

The scene I have ahead of me chronologically in the story is one of a boar-hunt, which is going to take a lot of maneuvering characters and some skill to keep the initial moments from being dull.  (Once you've got a boar, of course, things are never dull.)  But I'm balking on getting through those first social scenes in getting the party together and out into the blasted cold of the early November morning.  Social scenes are always daunting.  This is what I want to push through and finish by the end of July.  Which will come faster than I know.

Tell us about this project.  Give us a small synopsis.

"When a young Victorian lady is shipped off to Naples to catch a suitor, she wasn't expecting a suitor to catch her. Kidnapped and a world away from home, Margaret Coventry finds herself fighting for her life and the life of the strange world she is beginning to call home."  And there is the groundwork for my third novel and work-in-progress Plenilune.  This novel is a lot "heavier" than its companion Adamantine, in large part because the world of Adamantine was not the main point, though it was undeniably an important one.  Adamantine dealt with more intangible, metaphysical aspects whereas in Plenilune the physical place Plenilune is almost as important and grand a character as the people who populate her.  Plenilune is consequently very "heavy" in feel and I often have the impression of biting off more than I can chew.  But then that's really nothing new.

How long have you been working on this project?

I started Plenilune last September (2011) but I didn't announce it on The Penslayer until October when I was sure the story was serious and was actually going to go somewhere.

Introduce us to three of your favourite characters in this project.

Only two of the three show up in my scene here, but I think so far my favourite characters are the fox, Skander Rime, and a grim tie between Aikin Ironside and FitzDraco.  I really love them all and they are a lot of fun to work with (as I'm doing this post I'm actually beginning to look forward more to attending a boar-hunt with them, but those three-to-four characters form a kind of core among the characters and Margaret (and incidentally myself) interact more with them and come to like and know them better than anyone else.  In this scene I will be dealing with Skander and Aikin (and FitzDraco), but not the fox.  So sorry.  Skander and Aikin are both young bucks, in their late twenties, but level-headed and good at both administration and warfare.  While Skander is unsociable by nature you are like to feel more comfortable around him than around Aikin, who, while more engaging, shares through his mother the uncanny elemental aura of the nomadic people.  They are both splendid young men, but Skander simply feels more familiar, and consequently more comfortable, than Aikin.  As for FitzDraco (who, for the purpose of this scene, might as well be my third favourite character), I know I've done a Beautiful People post for him.  I don't know as I would call him fun to write; he is a tough nut, reserved, with an atmosphere of Puritan grey, but the contrast of his Puritan grey demeanour and flaming soul on the inside is always good to write.  He is definitely a great character.

How often do you intend to write in order to reach your goal by August first?

As often as it takes.  I have no clear idea how large this scene might need to be and, once I get started, my thoughts tend to flow contiguously from beginning to end (which makes going back and inserting pieces very difficult).  I will write whenever I have time and until I finish.  The real incentive is the promise that I will finish it by August first.

How will you make your characters behave long enough to finish this goal?

This is not a funny question.  I am locked tine in tine with Rupert at the moment and that is probably my biggest hurtle and why I've been balking on this piece.  On occasion I will gloss over difficulties like this and move on, to come back and fill out later, but my typical approach is to hurl myself headlong into writing, attaining that perfect level of momentum that keeps me moving forward without falling on my face.  I may very well end up taking that approach again.

Go to page 16 (or 6 or 26 or 66!) of your writing project.  Pick your favourite line or snippet on the page.

After that the silence that settled was aching. Margaret stared unseeing into the new fire, trapped in an odd stillness that was not calming. Why did all the silences of this place sound like the silence before a scream? Why did the stillness of this house feel like the stillness before a storm?

Tea or coffee?

Tea, always, but probably not absurd amounts of it.  I love tea, but I don't think I'm tea-dependent.  I'm not sure it has enough caffeine to addict me.

Every Feather Was Made of Glass

"No one is born free, Eikin."
(happy 4th of July)

July Snip-Whippets

How familiar they all were! How blunt and unlovely and covered in flying muck and stubble—and familiar!

She breathed in desperation with one hideous sob. “How can you live with yourself!” she screamed at him. He was turning away, walking away, leaving shadows behind him. A wretched, red-tinged rage welled up inside her and she ran after him. With all her force she grabbed his arm and yanked him back. Her voice was still a wrangled scream. “He is your kinsman! With all your magic tricks—with all your wizardry, is there nothing you can do?”

They fell back in order, regathering and clumping into a rough square-shape that drew off, turned to beat down [FitzDraco's] pursuit, and turned to withdraw again. Lifoy was broken. He was out of the game.

"You're gammoning me."

When she looked at him the fox was staring off into his own thoughts with the look of one gazing at a nightmare, and when at last he spoke, still staring unblinkingly, his voice was hard but quiet. “You know that if you do it you will regret it every day for the rest of your life.”

That’s good down country,” said Skander.

All’s fair, they say, in love and war.”
“How alike they are sometimes.”

It seemed to her like the cry of every broken heart and every cheated love and every lost soul and every righteous fury that man had ever felt. There was power in it, a raging, thrashing, sobbing, terrible power.

 “He is a good fellow, quite loyal, but he has a short temper and does not rely so on main wit.”

When they passed into the light it was like being caught up in some other world entirely, a world in which the air was gold and every drifting speck of dirt or feather was made of glass and silver and the manes of the horses were made of thin-pulled copper.  

Hy my! I would not be his reputation for the world once it got under your heel.” 

Do not you ‘watch your mouth’ at me!”

He went off, spurs sparking light in the gloom, the sound of his boots and his horse’s shod hooves ringing on the cobbles. The mists curled around him as he mounted, he and his great gyrfalcon etched and smudged dark grey against the grey steel sky, framed by the old timber ramparts of the yard walls. He turned and turned about, settled in, and left with one last wave of his hand through the yard gate. The soft drub of the hunter’s hooves on the damp turf of the paddock rolled back to her, softly, softly…until it, too, faded into the grey of the October morning.

Beautiful People - Spencer

Esca tossed the slender papyrus roll onto the cot, and set his own hands over Marcus's.  "I have not served the Centurion because I was his slave," he said, dropping unconsciously into the speech of his own people.  "I have served Marcus, and it was not slave-service...  My stomach will be glad when we start on this hunting trail."
The Eagle of the Ninth, Rosemary Sutcliff

I chose to do another back-bencher for this month's Beautiful People.  It's the background folk who aren't seen very clearly, and I like to see them.  Some of them are vitally important, like this handsome fellow.


1.  What does he look like?  What are his hair and eye colour?

Spencer is an even six feet tall and lean-looking, which gives you a false impression of how strong he is: he is one of those annoying types which doesn’t have to work too hard to be fit.  He has dark brown hair, and hazel-coloured eyes which are most often brown-looking rather than blue or green.  But you have to look really hard at Spencer to get a good impression of him: he is a deftly self-effacing individual and ten to one you would not take note of him at all.

2.  How old is he?

As of 1844 when the story takes place, Spencer would be twenty-six years old.

3.  What is his background?  Where did he come from?

Spencer is native to the Mares though his ancestors had a gypsy-life.  He does not come from money; his only relative who owned land had only a little tract and lost it (legitimately) in a legal battle.  He was a posthumous child, losing his father two months before his birth, and he lost his mother when he was six years old.  But his family was friends with a friend of the Marenov√© House and word of him got round to Richard de la Mare, who was then the master of Marenov√© House, and Richard de la Mare is generally counted a charitable man.

4.  What does he do?

Spencer is the manservant of and companion to Richard de la Mare’s eldest son.  They are nearly of an age with only ten months’ space between them, and in a very short while they became inseparable—more like blood-brothers than master and servant. 

5.  Is there something he is particularly good at?

Listening.  Spencer is a quiet, contemplative man by nature and his companion is by nature a great talker—never dully, but very fluidly—so Spencer has long since learned the art of listening well.  He is also a pretty good physic and one hell of an archer, though those two skills don’t tend to work expediently in tandem…

6.  Is there something he is afraid of?

No, not really, not for himself.  Spencer is that rare soul that isn’t disturbed by anything much.  He would be the first to quietly run his head knowingly into a trap just to get a job done.  The only thing he really fears—and he fears it acutely—is that something should happen to his friend.  Something like death.

7.  Is he more brawn or more brain?

A bit of both.  He is as strong as an ox but he also has good common sense.  He is not as sharp or witty as his friend, but he is logical and clear-sighted, and always has his feet on the ground, and that combination goes a long way.

8.  Is he married or does he have a sweetheart?

Spencer has never been married and he has never had a sweetheart.  Living in his friend’s shadow, I don’t know if a girl has ever noticed him anyway.  He has considered idly, from time to time, that he might like a wife one day, but for now he feels he cannot divide his attention between a wife and his friend and do them both justice.  For now, he is content.

9.  Does he have any enemies?

Only one, and very close to home.  Perhaps because they are so much alike and yet so fundamentally different, Spencer and Rupert de la Mare have never seen eye to eye.  They never had a physical fight when they were young, partly because, to Rupert, Spencer was an outsider and a good two years his senior; by the time they became men Spencer was well used to taking a passive role in things and backing up his friend, and Rupert, as I’ve said before, had long since taken to quietly nursing grudges with very few sparks to show how deep his hatred runs.

10.  If he had a song, what would it be?

If he had a song, it would be “Brother, Stand Beside Me” by Heather Dale. 

Brother, stand beside me - brother, lend your arm.
Brother, stand beside me - brother, lend your arm.
All it takes is one to say 
"We'll take back that ground." 
Let them sing, let them sing our praises 
When we've gone.

Under These Words, With This Conviction

In Plenilune, words as well as military prowess mean something - titles like "Hammer" and "War-wolf" are earned and respected.  I now know the names of my characters and all their titles, so I decided to probe a little deeper this morning.  The following is a list (probably not exhaustive) of the mottos for people and places in the world of Plenilune.  Enjoy!

the Mares
Primus Inter Pares

Rupert de la Mare
"No One Provokes Me With Impunity"

Richard de la Mare
"To Dare Is To Do"

Dammerung War-wolf
"Let Us Dare"

Rosemary de la Mare
"Good Wombs Have Borne Bad Sons"

Margaret Coventry
"My Face Is Set Like Flint"

"Always Faithful"

"True At Any Cost"


"Event of War"

Fighting Dogs

Skander Rime
"Fortune Favours the Bold"

"Even If All Others...Not I"

"A Sweet And Useful Thing"

Periot Survance
"Capacity For Pain"

Ely Jacland
"Sir, We Would See Jesus"

Huw Daggerman
"Keeping Watch (Over Myself)"

A Lion In Winter

"The Day of Wrath Is Mine"

"There Is Hope of Peace In Death"

"My Foot On the Neck (Of My Enemies)"

"Rend the Heavens"

"Death Be Damned"

Rule the Waves

Black Malkin
"Let Others Wage War"

"The Trade-Winds In Hand"

Woodbird Swan-neck
"Cygnus Inter Anates"

"In Good Faith"

Men Are Lightning, Words Are Thunder

"Victory Or Death"


Mark Roy
"I Have Spoken"

"Fire In the Veins"

Aikin Ironside
"Who Meddles Wi' Me?"

Brand the Hammer
"Never Crossed Twice"

"Heart Or Death"