Hum the Quiet Notes of an Exile Song

Maybe Esca had been right about this place , after all.  For somewhere in the abandoned fort, somebody - or something - was whistling the tune of a song that he knew well.
Oh when I joined the Eagles
(As it might be yesterday)
I kissed a girl at Clusium
Before I marched away.
"the eagle of the ninth," rosemary sutcliff

What music do you listen to while writing Gingerune?


Of the music you listen to while writing, which songs are the most descriptive/emotionally linked to the story?

I did a post about what music I listen to while writing Gingerune back in March, but I've added more songs and forgotten to listen to others, so the list needs revamping. ...I have a feeling this post is going to be largely in column form.  How unsightly.  I've also discovered that I play musical chairs with my writing.  As soon as the music stops, so does my writing.  Abigail is the complete opposite: she does not work well with music playing, unless it is so quiet as to be virtually subliminal.  We don't always work well together...  Anyway, to the point (spake brave Horatius, the Captain of the Gate), here is a list, in no particular order, of the songs which come to mind.  You ask me what I listen to and my mind becomes a cave-savage wondering what music is.  Bah.  Humbug.

Some of these songs, like "Summer in the Stars" and "Supernatural" are out in left field, but I like them so I listen to them.  Most of these songs have something to do with Gingerune.  You can see I am very fond of Rich Mullins' album "Songs" - I almost threw the whole thing into the list but then opted out at the last minute.  Andrew Peterson has a knack for tapping into the exile's spirit and the love and longing for home with which Gingerune is heavily laden.  The songs which are most descriptive of the story (everybody perk up your eyeballs here) would be "Carry the Fire," "The Far Country," "Run," Show Me," "We Are Not As Strong As We Think We Are," and "While the Nations Rage."  Not a bad haul, I think.  Mazelin is the most musical of my characters: he gets the brunt of the songs, certainly all of Rich Mullins'.  Ginger gets "Show Me" and "The House You're Building," and then shares bits and pieces of "King and Lionheart," "Skyfall," "Set Fire to the Rain," "Canaan Bound," "Run," and "We Are Not As Strong As We Think We Are" with other characters.  "Run," which I like, got co-opted by my antagonist, which peeved me.  Ginger and Roxane share "Everything."  Almost literally. 

How short do you NOT expect Gingerune to be?

At the moment that I write this, Gingerune's main document is 111,079 words long.  Plenilune is roughly 246,000 (rounding up slightly) and Adamantine is 222,000 (also rounding up and not counting the reworking of the first chapter which needs doing).  Gingerune will probably fall within that range.  I was actually really worried at first that Gingerune would be dwarfed by the first two novels.  Abigail (or maybe it was Tim) told me nobody cares about that sort of thing and books are as long as they are.  True, but one likes aesthetics and suchlike.  Anyway, it looks as though I'll get my pleasing symmetry after all.  I think I had much the same fear at the beginning of Plenilune, as to that, but it seems that once I rub the blastedly small lamp, the genie which comes out is massive. 

Your Fingerprints Can Be Seen On A Million Faces

"See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand."

Do you find elements of your own personality in any of the characters?  Which character is most like you?
elizabeth rose and bree

I love this question and I have scant idea how to answer it.  It stands to reason that my characters will possess aspects of me - they walk at large in the universe of my mind - but unlike God I have poor skill at knowing myself and when I am writing I am at the business of looking out of myself, not within.  But I'll do my best.

Social annoyance.  Ginger is perhaps the most acidic of protagonists I have written, giving vent to my huge emotion of annoyance when I am caught in situations I don't like.  She shares my feelings of uncharitable irritation and tigery violence which good manners (forced upon us by a gentling society) does not allow us to express.  Further commentary on the fault of this passion is not necessary: it is already understood - by myself, at least, if not Ginger.  Stubbornness ("It is not for nothing that you are named Jenny").  A general apathy toward the fate of people she does not know.  I am picking out all my faults - I find I do not trust the appearance of my virtues.  A gentleness toward those she loves.  Playfulness.  A vanity and showmanship of person while at the same time hating to have any attention drawn to herself.  Mazelin shares this trait of mine also, though I think he minds less having his skills pointed out by admirers...

To be honest, I am probably best expressed through both Ginger and Mazelin at turns: I seem to be shuttled back and forth between the two of them and they take turns mingled my good and my bad sides.  They are proud and silent, circumspect and violent, the one's passion often the tempering the opposite emotion of the other.  Which brings to mind a metaphysical truth which I am pleased to find in this circumstance, but which I don't want to get into at present. 

When push comes to shove, I'm not much different from anyone else.  I have all the same mixtures of high sentiment and dirty rotten selfishness you are liable to find in anyone.  Which is perhaps why I am not likely to think of my characters as extensions of myself: they are too much like the real thing.

[Which character] is the most opposite of you?

Without a doubt that would be Roxane, and Roxane is most like Abigail: sensible, strong, less prone to being moved by passion (though naturally she feels it) than Ginger.  As children I was always enjoined to write Abigail into a story, and it always gave me great pain to admit that I couldn't do it.  Abigail and Roxane remain almost inscrutable figures to me.  Ginger and I continue to depend on them while at the same time admitting to not fully understanding them.  Knowing my flare for the fantastic, you might be afraid I think sensible, strong people are boring, but that's quite untrue.  Sensible, strong people don't give me flash and bang to see by: they are invisible powers, which are daunting to tackle.

Do you even like ginger (the root)?  And did the red hair inspire "Ginger" or did "Ginger" inspire the red hair?

I do like ginger - in moderation, of course: I don't go gnawing on roots of it for fun.  I like it best in tea and ale.  But it has a rich potency and fieriness which match Ginger perfectly, and as to which came first, the red hair or the name, I couldn't say.  I think they came together.   Ginger is also a rare spice, and Ginger is a unique person, which suits my sense of rightness admirably.
"But you, with your tempestuous nature and your scorching words, fantastic and unbounded passions, are eminently suited to my purposes. You come at life with the will to crush it underfoot; if you should momentarily fail, it does not beset your temper. You rise again, undaunted. But life has hated you, and you have learned to hate life. In that, life has conquered you.”

A Buried Sun

"We are so much more than skin and bone."

What inspired you to write Gingerune?  When did you first know you had to write it?

This dual question by Elizabeth Rose and Bree (bah! sisters!) is probably the most puzzling of all the questions for me - not because you asked it, but because I'm really not sure.  I know that it was Beowulf which first inspired me to write Adamantine, and several books like Knight's Fee and The Worm Ouroboros which inspired me to write Plenilune, but I was not reading anything when the light came on for Gingerune, so it does not have a book which genius gave it birth.  Or perhaps it does...

Gingerune started out as something wholly other, as Barth says.  It was medieval and fantastic, with the beginnings of a political struggle at the centre of things.  The political struggle (much to my chagrin) seems to have clung on through the transmutation process; so have other things, I suppose, such as the affair and the Rammerowt and Ginger's pedigree.  But the shift from a cloud-capped Germanic landscape to a white-washed Mediterranean vista was a jolt.  The dashed problem is, I don't remember why I had to make that shift.  I have a vague memory of knowing why once, but it's been too long now.  Once the decision has been made, the decision-making process seems to become so thoroughly irrelevant that my brain chucks it.  I do apologize for that.  I remember the shift being important, so you'll just have to be content with that and assume (ill-advisedly) that I'm doing these things for the best.

here lies the whole world after one // peculiar mode; a buried sun,
stars and immensities of sky // and cities here discarded lie.
the prince who owned them, having gone, // left them as things not needed on
his journey; yet with hope that he, // purged by aeonian poverty
in lenten lands, hereafter can // resume the robes he wore as man
c.s. lewis

As for knowing when I had to write it, thank you, Bree, for not holding my feet to the fire and expecting a specific date.  I think the best date I can give you is that it was part-way through Plenilune, when I realized that a character from Adamantine was going to make a cameo appearance in the second novel, that the character was going to get its own story and that story was going to be Gingerune.  Up until that moment, the original Gingerune was a poorly baked story which I was sure I would never actually write.  I was correct: that first form of Gingerune will probably never be written, and having died and come alive again I think it will do much better in its resurrected form.  So I suppose you can take away two things: the books that inspired Gingerune were Adamantine and Plenilune, and I know I have to write it because it is now ready to be written.  As Lessingham's martlet said, "Time is."  Simple as that.

Do you have a clear outline for Gingerune written out which you are using as you write this first draft, or are you just 'writing it'?

Funny you should ask that.  I'm gearing up to deliver a creative writing seminar with Abigail at the Home School Resource Center (Joy, I think it might be a bit of a commute if you wanted to attend), so I've been thinking about the mechanics of writing - which is something I try not to do if I can possibly help it.   I do remember writing an outline for The Shadow Things, which ended up keeping me on track, but also gave me a very skeletal creation when I was done.  Outlines work for some writers, but typically not for me.  Gingerune has a rough outline in my head - but it looks less like an outline, perhaps, and more like a "murder board," with things here and there connected to other things here and there, and so and so, and such and such, and Wimseycal snatches of prose and poetry which have dubious connection to my themes.  I do keep track of things with sticky-notes on my walls in a shape resembling a royal European family tree, but that's the best I can do at an outline.  Not only am I not one to be put in a box, I am entirely the wrong shape for the box, it would seem...  I am 'just writing it,' which gives you a wholly false impression of the difficulty level of this beast.

"Oh, confound it all!" Sophie yelled.
howl's moving castle

The Goodly Prospect

...As when a scout,
Through dark and desert ways with peril gone
All night; at last by break of cheerful dawn
Obtains the brow of some high-climbing hill,
Which to his eye discovers unaware
The goodly prospect of some foreign land.

Is Gingerune set in Plenilune or does it have its own world?  (Or is it Roman? it feels Roman.)

Anne-girl's parenthetical question, while incorrect, is not far off the mark, and it warms my heart to know what little I have managed to show you in the way of snippets has given you the correct "feel" of a general time period of antiquity or archaism.  Running the risk of getting too technical, antiquity is what most of our history curricula cover (most of us start with Alexander the Great and then magically leap to the destruction of the Roman Republic), but Gingerune takes you back over a thousand years before the beginning of classicism, which is what we typically think of when we think of Ancient Greece.  These be strange waters now.

...a ring of fire
was whirling with such speed that it surpassed
the motion which most swiftly girds the world.
Dante, Paradiso

So the answer is no, Gingerune is not set in Plenilune's world - well, it is not set in Plenilune's world in the medieval sense of worlds and spheres, which sense was borne out of the classical authors...  Nor is Gingerune Roman.  At best you could describe it as chiefly Minoan with heavy deposits of Mycenaean influence (due to Thera's importance as a trade-stop in the Cyclades). Landscapes are alternately rich in pastureland and wind-blasted, scorched white under an unforgiving sun, full of valleys and sudden mountains and man-made terraces full of vineyards.  The people you find there are like most people you would find anywhere, I expect: reluctant at their business, busy at other people's, doing this and that thing which seems to them vitally important but which in light of what all moves and lives in the universe is often inconsequential.  There you find the rich and the poor, living in limestone and gypsum, and wattle-and-daub.  But I'll get back to them in a minute, and there remains the allusion to more than mere terrestrial rock as the backdrop of Gingerune: "I have already hinted that the intelligible universe reverses it all; there the Earth is the rim, the outside edge where being fades away on the border of nonentity." (Lewis, The Discarded Image)

What styles of clothing do the men and women wear?
elizabeth rose

As if I were responsible for it myself, I have the honour of informing you that the clothing of Gingerune has the distinction of being the first fitted clothing in history, and after the destruction of the Minoan civilization the like of such clothing was not seen again for over a millennium.  The bodies which wore these garments were typically on the light side, smallish and wiry, though on Thera one has the intermarrying of many branches of peoples from the Greek world and sizes can vary imaginatively in Gingerune.

Clothing for men often consists of little more than a tunic with length varying from the ankle to the middle of the thigh (not on the same tunic, of course - that would be nauseatingly distracting).  In inclement weather cloaks and over-tunics of skins can be added to this.  Shoes can range from sandals which are hardly more than a slab of thick leather and a strap or two, to heavy, hobnailed things for hard work and mucky weather. Hair, which is usually black or dark brown and often very curly, is often worn long and braided, but it is acceptable to keep it cut short; beards are fashionable and usually expected, but not required. 

Women's clothing takes longer to describe.  The skirts are bell-shaped and pleated, sometimes consisting of three or more layers.  Half-length sleeves are fashionable.  Most gowns come equipped with a thick metal wire sewn into the interior of the fabric which descends from one shoulder, curves under the breasts, and returns up the other shoulder to provide support; the elite of high society wear the gown open-chested, but most gowns come with a pleated panel across the chest.  Under the gown is worn a corset, much like you might expect to find in Victorian times.  Sandals are usually light affairs (though Ginger goes barefoot so they aren't even an issue).  Hair can be worn down, braided, or elaborately piled on the head (like men's hair, women's hair tends to be dark and curly). 

Colours are vibrant.  Ochres (reds, oranges, yellows), blues, blacks, even greens and (if you're lucky) sometimes even purple (though it should be remembered that their "purple" is a lot like red) can be seen crowded into ensembles all over the street.  Minoan patterning tends to be much more fluid than Mycenaean; geometric and organic imagery used to border outfits have more give in their kinks and are more sinuous in line than those of their neighbouring civilization.  Make-up might be considered post-Biba by today's standards: eyes are rimmed with the equivalent of the famous Egyptian kohl and lips are stained dark red, producing a bold, luscious effect.  (Brown eyes are dominant, but if you happened to have blue eyes, you are a lucky duck.)

Tall was that lady and slender, and beauty dwelt in her as the sunshine dwells in the red floor and gray-green trunks of a beech wood in early spring.
The Worm Ouroboros

Now you have a brief picture of the kind of bezel in which I have placed the diamonds-in-the-rough of Gingerune.  And I prefer to leave it brief for fear that, like the ancients crowding the universe with sense and order, I leave you feeling cramped with colours and claustrophobic.  More acquainted with the romantics, I think you and I prefer the open genius of dusky uncertainty and the room for the imagination which undiscovered frontiers will always leave for the human mind.

An Honest Coward

"The real hero is always a hero by mistake.  
He dreams of being an honest coward like everybody else."
Umberto Eco

I said "Let them ask!" and you did.  Some of your questions will take some delicate answering to not give anything away, and some of your questions were ones I had been subconsciously avoiding and now I have no choice but to address them.  Good on you.

rachel asked
Who is the most likeable character in Gingerune?


anne-girl asked
Do you have a hero or an anti-hero?

I've more or less lumped these two questions in together because the answer falls out much the same for both of them.  And the truth is, you two have pretty well hit upon the hinge-pin of Gingerune: the human aspect.  You all watched me blaze through Plenilune, wherein the characters strode about, looking, as they walked, "larger than human on the frozen hills."  Thunderous stuff.  It was like spinning fabric out of a lightning storm.  But Gingerune, while sporting my flare for the eye-boggling fantastic, is much more earthy, with characters not unlike you and me: full of petty passions and divided loyalties, acute love and hatred, spirits at once clinging to and at war with their bodies.  The characters of Gingerune are far more of the ordinary human stuff than many of the characters which populate my other novels.  In juxtaposition, of course, this earthy ordinariness makes the splendour of a boisterous, unshackled human spirit that much grander, but, as in all good stories, such things are a time coming.

Who is the most likeable?  Truth to tell, I'm not done introducing the cast, but I am willing to bet a reader's favourite at this juncture would be Mazelin.  He's big (for a Theran), kindly, always ready with a show of friendliness for anyone who is friendly, and quick to come to the defense of any and all who suffer oppression.  He is a great idealist - and, as such, I am find him beneath his strong, weathered body to be very brittle indeed.

Heroes and anti-heroes...  The tricky thing about characters is that they all think they are protagonists. Everyone thinks he is doing the right thing, even - well, but that would be telling.  I'm willing to bet everyone fantasizes himself in a heroic role to some extent: everyone likes to be the knight in shining armour - or the bronzed warrior stripped for war, as the case may be.  But when push comes to shove and the stakes are raised, as they must be in every good novel, cloud-spun towers crumble and very few people want to really put their life on the line to be the hero.  Being a hero is dangerous.  Being a hero means making the choice between life and death for people who have absolutely no say in their own destiny, and no one wants that responsibility.  Most people would rather save their own skin and spend most of their time justifying the obvious selfishness of their instinctive self-preservation.  In this way Gingerune has both heroic and anti-heroic sensibilities in the same characters. 

"You know what the definition of a hero is?  Someone who gets other people killed."
zoe washburne

A Literary Enlightenment

the shadow things

First of all, sale alert!  For all your Kindle owners, if you haven't bought The Shadow Things ebook already, check out the Amazon ebook sale.  The Shadow Things is a meager $0.99!  The sale ends tomorrow, so get right on that.  Abigail has a nice neat write-up on the sale and its other participants here on the Scribbles and Inkstains.  We're getting into the long dog-days of summer and you'll need plenty of reading material, so do a pack of authors a favour and snatch up our books while you can!


Secondly, you may dimly remember that at the beginning of Plenilune I threw out a plea to all my followers to send in any and all questions they could think of so that I could answer them.  I got gobs of questions and greatly enjoyed answering them.  Now, 104,000 words into Gingerune, I would like to do the same for my current novel-in-progress.  I have already done a few snippets posts and given you fleeting glimpses of what I have been studying, but that is all pretty one-sided and I like interaction.  So hurl those questions at me.  The world is the world of Gingerune.  The characters, yet to be fathomed.  The plot, for you to wait agonizing for until an undetermined date.

go get 'em, tiger!

The Stone Giants

"What dost thou in this living tomb?"
Matthew Arnold

This is really the sort of thing you expect from Abigail, I fancy.  Trying to pin my brain down to any sort of really serious research is like a cat trying to pin down the reflection off your watch-face.  Abigail is much more diligent and, in general, much more concrete-minded than I am, which means I have to work against my nature to store up treasures of fact in my memory.  She loves biographies, and I don't really.  She loves heavy, many-paged histories and slogs through them much the same way I slog through thirty minutes of exercises on a Monday morning. 

But there is one "biography" type that I do like, and that is archaeology.  I don't know why, and to this day the bizarre truth of the matter still baffles me.  The sport is full of crinkled tomes with black-and-white snapshots: not the sort of thing that would naturally lend itself a fitting helpmeet to my colourful imagination.  And yet the science, born in an era full of romanticism, still retains an ineluctable magic among its sun-bleached columns that enchants me - and that, most likely, is why I am perfectly willing to snatch up a copy of Paul MacKendrick's works and snuggle in tight for 500+ pages' worth of black-and-white snapshots and text.  I love the alchemical magic of coaxing potsherds out of the earth and building a civilization on them.  And archaeology is just that: not just the tedious, perhaps sometimes dull, work of moving mind-boggling tonnages of earth off God alone knows how many superimposed cities that have struggled upward, been crushed in the course of a few days, risen again only to be crushed into oblivion, but the steady piecing together of physical artefact, legend, and the nature of man which has not changed much in two fistfuls or so of millennia.  It is a kind of resurrection, and, ergo, makes for a thrilling read. 

I mentioned on The Penslayer near the beginning of my work on Gingerune that the transition from Plenilune to Gingerune was proving to be difficult because the social spheres were so diametrically different.  I was in danger of giving myself whiplash and it is only very recently (about 99,000 words in) that I am beginning to feel I have enough of a mental image of Gingerune's world that I can finally begin to bring it across adequately to the reader.  I spoke of having to "fall in love" with Gingerune's world.  I am beginning to do that.
The architectonic aim is not grandiosity, as in Egypt, or subordination to a central megaron, as at Mycenae or Tiryns, but variety of line and color, achieved by facades with setbacks, terraces and flat roofs of various heights, the play of light and shadow on white gypsum stucco, blue-gray local stone, red cypress beams and columns; the alteration of light and darkness in propylons, light wells, peristyles, porticoes, and open courts of various shapes and sizes. (MacKendrick, The Greek Stones Speak)
Compared to its topic and size, I veritably tore through Christos G. Doumas' work Thera: Pompeii of the Ancient Aegean; I am now about a third of the way through The Greek Stones Speak, having begun it a week ago.  Maps, charts, black-and-white snapshots, dates, names, myths, stone-types, building styles, pottery genres, languages, are crowded together in my head.  My dreams are becoming painted with the flamboyant reds and blues that the Minoan civilization adored; the buildings I blink through disjointedly in my sleep are full of light wells and sudden dog-legs, lavishly frescoed with naturalistic imagery.  Like Sir Arthur Evans, my imagination is tumbling heels over head through a civilization that outpaced the rest of the world during its day.  As is the case with people, it has taken me time to get to know the time and place of Gingerune and to fashion a relationship with it, but now I love it - which is the first step toward teaching you to love it too.

if thou hast cross'd the sea to-ward the east;
if thou hast set thy prow into the dawn;
if thou hast reached as far as man hast reached
and, onward, gone as far as man hast gone;
beneath the far-flung rays of Greekish suns
there lies, upon a wind-swept foaming sea,
a land from which the ancient legends run
to tell a sight that, like tides, shall draw thee - 
a shining place, shaped as the crescent moon
and in the dawn-light white with gypsum-stone,
whose fig and olive trees dance to the tune
of sea and wind and lonesome seabird's moan.
if thou hast cross'd the sea to Thera's shore
hast seen a land of ages gone before.