Author’s Quest for Meaning


*Struggling to get a handle on the sequel*- what motifs do I want to employ, what is the deeper meaning, how might I weave the many different threads into a cohesive story? When in doubt, I always go back to the great Arthurian Romances – Tristan and Iseult, Lancelot and Guinevere, Romeo and Juliet. Continue reading “Author’s Quest for Meaning”

On finishing a novel


Ciaran ap Morgan, Prince of Narberth, The Flamebearer
Lady Evaine

 

Robyn ap Gryffin

Is anyone ever really “finished”? This project began over thirty years ago, got sidelined for many years (I needed to earn a living), and finally got picked-up again in retirement. To my genuine delight, I found that my passion and affection for these characters had not diminished in the slightest, even after such a long time away from them.

Darn good thing I saved a hard copy! What began in DOS on a floppy disc and graduated at some point to “diskette” and a very early version of MS Word, would probably not make the transition to today’s hardware or software.

After digging the coffee-stained, dog-eared pile of typed pages out of an old cardboard box, re-formatting and retyping the manuscript, I found it exhilarating to dive right back in. The lovers were at more-or-less the midway point, literally taking refuge in an enchanted forest.

The second half of the book practically wrote itself. (That is a bald-faced lie. Any writer who tells you that is completely full-of-it.) But it did seem to flow more smoothly than the first half, which went through hundreds of revisions, re-drafts, ruthless self-editing, and painful re-writes. And that’s when I did most of my historical research also, which in those days could only be done at the library. Most of the chronicled information I needed was so obscure, I’d be forced to order it from some university archive and wait weeks for its arrival in my mailbox. Today, I Google everything and acquire it instantaneously.

Another advantage to allowing twenty years to elapse between serious chapter drafts is that I am an entirely different person at 65 than I was at 40. I have entered a relatively calm period in my life and have achieved a degree of emotional maturity I did not possess in my forties. In revisiting my story world, I experienced a deeper and more profound connection to my narrative and became aware of subtleties and nuances I had overlooked.

Furthermore, I am learning to express my artistic vision using an exciting new vehicle – computer graphics. The ability to employ visual artwork affords me the opportunity and luxury of exploring my people and my fictional world through pictures as well as language. Alternating between writing and illustration enhances both methods of self-expression and allows me to experience my story in ways formerly unavailable to me as an artist. As I develop and fine-tune the physical appearance, body-language, dress, hairstyle, & eye-color of each of my actors, I get to see them more clearly and know them more intimately, while placing them in any environment I choose to create.

Often, scenes I had only vaguely pictured with my inner vision evolved into vivid, detailed realities once I was able to render them in 3D. I am still limited by the scope of the application, and the capabilities of my current equipment, as well as by my own proficiency, as to how much complexity I am able to put into a single scene. At this stage, I am focused primarily on portraiture, but this is a medium I find obsessively fascinating. There is always more to learn and to explore.

This is one reason I think I shall never honestly “finish” working on this novel. I tend to become enmeshed with my literary personalities. They provide me with such nuanced and deeply satisfying inspiration, I am powerless to let them go. I love watching them evolve, and I am still learning things about each of them that endear them to me all the more.

As of 2017, I am in the process of revising the entire manuscript. My plan is to publish the revised and expanded second edition with a completely new cover. I am advised that this tendency to endlessly tweak the original content is a symptom of my Type Four Enneagram Personality.

 

10-Steps to Creating Compelling, Irresistible Characters


 

10 STEPS TO CREATING COMPELLING, IRRESISTIBLE CHARACTERS

10-Steps to Creating Compelling, Irresistible Characters


10-Steps to Building Compelling, Irresistible Characters


10-Steps to Building Compelling, Irresistible Characters by E. Madison Cawein

1. Endow your dashingly handsome, tantalizingly sexy Hero with flaws that drive him to behave badly on occasion. For example, he may initially come across as arrogant, hostile, and dismissive toward his friends and even his Love Interest while putting on an act to impress his enemies or his superiors, or to hide his inner anxieties. If you strive to make him “too perfect”, no one will trust or believe you and they may decide to stop reading.

2. The Hero’s deepest fear (usually a wound received in childhood, not always conscious) may cause him to conceal or deny his vulnerabilities. Perhaps he was abandoned at an early age which precipitates a fear of intimacy as an adult. Either that or it motivates him to seek the opposite: deeper, more meaningful relationships which, as a man, he thinks he can control, whereas his child Self was powerless to shape or to hold on to those he loved and depended upon the most.

3. The Hero may harbor overwhelming hatred and distrust of the Antagonist, who presents an almost likable first impression to other characters and especially to the reader. This can be delicious fun to write, especially if your Hero has spent a good portion of Part One honing an image of the Antagonist as the most worthless of scoundrels, the Bad Ass to beat all Bad Asses. Then, when he is finally introduced to the reader in Part Two, he doesn’t seem like the Villain he’s been made out to be and the reader realizes his menacing, nefarious intent was in the Hero’s head all along.

4. The Antagonist may be experienced as a tyrant by the Hero, but is, in reality, is a mixture of positive and negative traits, giving him subtlety and nuance. The reader may find him/herself identifying with him at first, not knowing whether to sympathize with him, mistrust him, or to despise him. Let him reveal himself (or herself) gradually, scene by scene. One successful device is to show a subtle shift from Good to Evil over the course of the entire second half of the book – the Antagonist’s Character Arc if you will. In any case, he should have his own perfectly rational reasons for his corruption and cruelty and not simply be Evil for Evil’s sake.

5. Let your Heroine display vulnerability, fear, clinginess, jealousy, mistrust, anger, opinions and convictions no matter how wrong-headed, contrariness, self-doubt, yearning, affection, tenderness, wisdom, aloofness, even icy coldness if it moves the story forward. In other words, let her be a real woman with a wide range of emotional frequencies. Allow her to evolve into a fully 3-dimensional being, keeping The Hero guessing until the end.

6. I beg you, PLEASE DON’T portray your Heroine as a one-dimensional Warrior Woman who comes across as superior to her male counterpart, outsmarting him and diminishing him as The Hero, unless of course, she happens to actually be a warrior. (A Shield Maiden?) Your Heroine should have the capacity to hold her own with the Hero, matching him in wit, intelligence, and self-possession. But let these traits emerge a little at a time so that when she does reveal her true inner strength, it comes as a surprise to the Hero. (He can’t always be allowed to maintain the upper hand, after all. Every Hero needs to be put in his place now and then!)

7. Think about your peripheral characters (the sidekick, the faithful servant, the bodyguard, etc.) as more than shallow clichés, but as fully realized individuals in their own right, with backstories, fears, flaws, and mannerisms all their own. These details may never make it into the final draft, but being aware of them will help you to add shading and depth to your minor characters which will draw your readers deeper into your fictional world.

8. Think of your setting as another character. The time period, landscape, architecture, climate and weather all play a role in creating the structure within which your characters operate. People living in austere environments will be compelled to behave differently than those enjoying relative ease. A cold climate breeds rugged, practical, hard-working individuals, while warmer climates tend to allow people to relax and take life at a more leisurely pace. Likewise, environment influences modes of dress, customs, seasons, types of dwellings and crop production, which in turn determines the health, lifespan, and general attitudes and behavior of the population. A society on a constant war footing will differ dramatically from a society at peace. Is your Hero from a wealthy family or a poor one? Is money no object to him or is he forced to constantly struggle for survival?

9. In character-driven stories, each and every plot point is determined by what the characters DO, how they FEEL, what they COMMUNICATE, and WHO THEY ARE AT THEIR CORE. Likewise, their REACTIONS to the things that happen to them drive the story forward.

10. The kinds of STRESSES and CONFLICTS you put your characters through (otherwise known as PLOT) will shape their personalities, their actions and reactions, their emotional equilibrium (or lack thereof), and ultimately, the degree of growth and change they go through during the course of the narrative (called the Character Arc). Some characters will resist conflict, refusing to learn from their mistakes. Others will meet a challenge head-on and come out the better for it in the end. All of them will endure highs and lows, triumphs and tragedies and may even be compelled to make the ultimate sacrifice – undergoing the rite of passage from this world to the next by story’s end. But whether you give your story a happy ending or a tragic one, including each of the above steps will have made the adventure worthwhile for your readers and hopefully turned them into enthusiastic, lifelong fans.

Archetypes as Guides to Character Development


Many systems exist as ways to organize and classify types of human behavior.  Astrology is perhaps one of the most ancient. Due to its revival in modern times, the twelve signs of the zodiac are familiar to most people on a rudimentary level. Following is a brief description of each of the Sun signs. Later we will examine each sign in more depth. The Archetypes listed are from The Inner Sky by Steven Forest.

ARIES glyphARIES The Ram

Element: FIRE

Mode: Cardinal

Ruling Planet: MARS

Archetypes: The Warrior, The Pioneer, The Daredevil, The Survivor

TAURUS glyphTAURUS The Bull

Element: EARTH

Mode: Fixed

Ruling Planet: VENUS

Archetypes: The Earth Spirit, The Musician, The Silent one

GEMINI glyphGEMINI The Twins

Element: AIR

Mode: Mutable

Ruling Planet: MERCURY

Archetypes: The Witness, The Teacher, The Storyteller; The Journalist

CANCER glyphCANCER The Crab

Element: WATER

Mode: Cardinal

Ruling Planet: THE MOON

Archetypes: The Mother, The healer, The Invisible Man (Woman)

LEO glyphLEO The Lion

Element: FIRE

Mode: Fixed

Ruling Planet: THE SUN

Archetypes: The King (or Queen), The Performer, The Child, The Clown

VIRGO glyphVIRGO The Virgin

Element: EARTH

Mode: Mutable

Ruling Planet: MERCURY

Archetypes: The Servant, The Martyr, The Perfectionist, The Analyst

LIBRA glyphLIBRA The Scales

Element: AIR

Mode:Cardinal

Ruling Planet: VENUS

Archetypes: The Lover, The Artist, The Peacemaker

SCORPIO glyphSCORPIO The Scorpion

Element: WATER

Mode:Fixed

Ruling Planet: PLUTO

Archetypes: The Detective, The Sorcerer, The Hypnotist

SAGITTARIUS glyphSAGITTARIUS The Archer

Element: FIRE

Mode: Mutable

Ruling Planet: JUPITER

Archetypes: The Gypsy, The Student, The Philosopher

CAPRICORN glyphCAPRICORN The Goat

Element: EARTH

Mode:Cardinal

Ruling Planet: SATURN

Archetypes: The Hermit, The Father, The Prime Minister

AQUARIUS glyphAQUARIUS The Water Bearer

Element: AIR

Mode: Fixed

Ruling planet: URANUS

Archetypes: The Genius, The Revolutionary, The Truth-Sayer, The Scientist, The Exile

PISCES glyphPISCES The Fishes

Element: WATER

Mode: Mutable

Ruling Planet: NEPTUNE

Archetypes: The Mystic, The Dreamer, The Poet, The Face Dancer


For an enlightening and entertaining look at each of the twelve signs, I recommend Linda Goodman’s SUN SIGNS. In addition, you may also enjoy her book on how the signs relate to one another: Linda Goodman’s LOVE SIGNS.


Another fascinating system for analyzing personality types is called The Enneagram.

The Nine Enneagram Type Descriptions

Click on any of the titles below to read detailed descriptions about each of the nine Enneagram types.

1 THE REFORMER

The Rational, Idealistic Type: Principled, Purposeful, Self-Controlled, and Perfectionistic

2 THE HELPER

The Caring, Interpersonal Type: Demonstrative, Generous, People-Pleasing, and Possessive

3 THE ACHIEVER

The Success-Oriented, Pragmatic Type: Adaptive, Excelling, Driven, and Image-Conscious

4 THE INDIVIDUALIST

The Sensitive, Withdrawn Type: Expressive, Dramatic, Self-Absorbed, and Temperamental

5 THE INVESTIGATOR

The Intense, Cerebral Type: Perceptive, Innovative, Secretive, and Isolated

6 THE LOYALIST

The Committed, Security-Oriented Type: Engaging, Responsible, Anxious, and Suspicious

7 THE ENTHUSIAST

The Busy, Fun-Loving Type: Spontaneous, Versatile, Distractible, and Scattered

8 THE CHALLENGER

The Powerful, Dominating Type: Self-Confident, Decisive, Willful, and Confrontational

9 THE PEACEMAKER

The Easygoing, Self-Effacing Type: Receptive, Reassuring, Agreeable, and Complacent

From <https://www.enneagraminstitute.com/type-descriptions/>


Other Archetypes of interest are derived from The Hero’s Journey and include:

The Wanderer, The Warrior, The Martyr, The Magician

In addition, the ancient art of divination known as the TAROT delineates twenty-two major archetypes called the MAJOR ARCANA. The MINOR ARCANA includes the four suits: THE SUIT OF CUPS, THE SUIT OF WANDS, THE SUIT OF SWORDS, and THE SUIT OF PENTACLES. Each suit contains Numbered Cards and Court Cards which further describe archetypal energies.

 

 

Multiple Storylines, Future Possibilities


 

The Flamebearer – Sequel or Separate Volume?

So far, I’m just going with my gut. (They call this “seat-of-the-pants”  story-crafting)

One possible scenario is to allow each of the characters to go on with their lives, for better or worse, most of them surviving into what would have been a ripe old age in medieval times. I’ve toyed with the idea of a reunion between Ciaran and Robyn, where the erstwhile world-traveler, soldier-of-fortune, Crusader, thespian, traveling minstrel, horse breeder, border thief, and all around wayfaring adventurer Robyn stumbles across Ciaran’s Otherworldly abode, not realizing, of course, that he’s unwittingly wandered across a threshold.

The two former brothers-in-arms sit up all night drinking and talking and laughing over old times, filling each other in on what their lives have been like since their last tragic days together. They finally turn in somewhere close to dawn and when he wakes up, Robyn discovers to his joy and astonishment that youth has miraculously returned to him. No more grey streaks in his hair or his beard, his limp is gone, the sight has returned to his right eye and lo and behold, he ‘s feeling fit as a fiddle and ready to strike out on a new adventure with his old pal (who, of course, doesn’t look a day older than he did 30-40 years ago).

Evaine? She lived to be a plump little old lady with long, white streaks running through her black hair, but still possessed of the blushing cheeks and rosebud lips. Ciaran conveys the message that she quietly passed away in his arms some years back as they made their journey across the water to the Forest of the Ever After, where she was greeted by her Mother, her Father, and her long-lost brother Gwilym.

Gazing through the mists toward the distant shore, they see that her mother holds a small infant in her arms, and Ciaran at once recognizes it’s their first child, a stillborn son.  Evaine carried the grief of that loss throughout her life, even though they were ultimately favored with many more children.

“At last, my love, you’ll get the chance to hold our son in your arms, a blessing that was denied to you all those years ago.” Arising from the mists, they hear the celestial, harmonious voices of an elysian choir calling her home. He reassures her that he will not be long behind, but he has some things to finish up here before joining her.


Eireen and The Bruce

After a protracted courtship with many ups and downs, misunderstandings, conflicts involving other men, time constraints, and simple difficulties with logistics, Eireen finally accepts the Bruce’s sincere proposal of marriage and agrees to travel with him to the northlands to begin building their future together and raising a family.  The fact that she soon finds herself pregnant is a strong contributing factor in her decision.

Together they build a thriving homestead in the Highlands, basking in the crisp mountain air, the blooming heather, and the considerable responsibility of managing the flocks and herds along with guarding their borders against invasion by poachers, thieves, and rival clans. Their exceptionally fertile partnership yields many sons and daughters, and together they live out their lives in relative peace and contentment.

Contrary to their personal hopes and aspirations, rebellion erupts along the border and The Bruce is pressed into service helping to a counter a clash between warring Chieftains. While engaged in a long and bloody campaign, he sustains grievous wounds which ultimately claim his life. Languishing in his bed at home, he is surrounded by his loving wife and children.

In the heart-wrenching final scene, Eireen is alone with him in the wee hours of a late winter morning. She senses the end is near but strives to keep him alive just a little longer. She hovers nearby, bringing him hot drinks and his favorite foods which go cold on the bedside table. In a vain effort to convince herself that he will recover and that his health will return in the Spring, she toils day and night at her loom, weaving new blankets to warm him and while she can not be sure if he even hears her, she croons the children’s best-loved lullabies to him and recites inspiring passages from the Bible.

When she can allow herself a few hours of rest, she curls beside him on their wide wooden bed and lays her head on his massive chest so she can monitor his breathing through the night. During the course of his life, he suffered from a variety of lung ailments, and she instinctively knows to safeguard him from a sudden attack of consumption by purifying the air in the room with the appropriate diffusions of aromatic oils.

Despite the protests of her daughters, she insists they keep a kettle of porridge simmering on the stove at all times and maintain a vigil from the drawing-room window for the coming of the sparrows, which will herald the changing of the seasons. Early one frosty morning in late March, she catches her first glimpse of the tiny feathered harbingers as they flock to the rafters of the sheep enclosure to begin building their nests. (In the early days of their courtship, she had a dream about “the coming of the sparrows” which left her deeply disturbed. When describing the dream to the Bruce, and asking about its meaning, he gently reassured her that the return of the sparrows in the Spring symbolized a happy time when the snows were finally melting and it was safe once again to let the we’ans out to play.)

Feeling uplifted and filled with renewed hope, Eireen loads a basket with freshly split logs for the fire and hurries back to tell her husband the news. Rushing to his bedside, she kneels on the rag carpet next to his bed and comprehends in that single moment that the man she has shared her life with over these many decades is gone. Eireen lowers her head over his lifeless body and weeps awhile, then prays awhile.

Her eldest daughter enters the room. The girl pauses and seeing the grief on her mother’s face, drops to her knees beside Eireen and enfolds her in a compassionate embrace. Now it is the daughter who comforts the mother, cooing words of condolence. “When?” she asks solemnly.

“Just the nou,” Eireen answers softly. And letting out a quiet wail, she cries, “Oh, Maggie, he’s gone!”

“Soft, Mither,” Maggie soothes.”See how peaceful he looks. At last, he’s gane to be with the Angels, like we prayed for sae lang. Just remember he loved ye’ better than all the warld, s’truith, tha’ he did.”

Composing herself, Eireen rises to her feet and wipes her tear-damp hands on her apron. “Call in the boys,” she tells Maggie. “Tell them to fetch their father’s Claymore. I’ll lay out his best tartan. We’ve no easy task ahead of us getting the hard ground ready to receive him.”

———–

Transporting his massive body out to the grave site presents them with an equally arduous chore. It takes all three boys plus Eireen and Maggie to hoist his dead-weight from the bed to the floor and then onto the carrycot and out the door before hitching the pallet to the muscular plow-horse’s bridle, which will drag him up the hill to his final resting place.

Eireen sends her eldest son to fetch the priest who will administer last rites. The family stands watch over the Bruce’s body throughout the chill night. As dawn approaches, the Highlander is slowly lowered into the ground and just the sun climbs over the horizon, the youngest boy, Robert, begins the time-honored tradition of piping over the burial mound, the eery sound of his bagpipes echoing over the moor.


 

During the first year of her widowhood, Eireen receives an unexpected visitor. If it isn’t Robyn ap Gryffin, her old paramour, still handsome as ever, though sporting a bit more gray in his beard than she remembers. He bears a permanent squint in his right eye – the result of a near-deadly clash with a band of rebels from the north. She notices he seems to favor his right side and walks with a slight limp. But it’s The Gryffin, right enough, come to look in on his old friends and perhaps take advantage of their Highland hospitality while he’s at it. As always, he arrives bearing gifts in the form of his favorite “man’s milk” –  preferably fermented, aged, and undiluted.

“Ye haven’t changed a whit, ye auld scoundrel!” Eireen declares as she holds open the door and welcomes him into her home and into her arms with an enveloping hug.

Naturally, Robyn wants to know all about The Bruce.  He is deeply saddened to learn of the Highlander’s recent passing. Eireen talks at length about her dearly departed husband, reminiscing about their wedding day all those years ago.

“I know, Eireen. I was there. Don’t you remember? I was the one weeping my eyes out at the back of the Hall. ”

“Puck Robyn, ye did no such thing. Ye was the one at the rear guzzling a wee-half o’ ram’s tam, if I know ye.”

They both had a good laugh over that and tipped their glasses to the Bruce.

As the evening passes and the drinks get stronger and more creative, Robyn can’t help suggesting they indulge in a favorite old pastime, one they enjoyed on a regular and frequent basis when they were young, before he made the unfortunate miscalculation of introducing her to The Bruce. (Miscalculation to his mind, at least.) But Eireen reminds him that she is still dressed in black and that she has been a widow for under than a year.

Robyn persists calling up fond memories of the mischief they shared until Eireen’s sons let him know in no uncertain terms he’d best watch himself or they would see him tossed out on his “wee, hairy arse”, as per their mother’s command.

Robyn finally acquiesces but proceeds to lay out in excruciating detail the agony he suffered while convalescing in her parlor after nearly losing his life in a back alley brawl not long after the untimely death of his dearest and closest friend. He describes how he lay there helplessly while being forced to endure listening to the grunts, sighs, and groans coming from behind the screens. When he recognized the sounds as issuing forth from The Highlander himself, he had to admit to being slightly amused.

“I’ll be damned,” he remembers thinking. “So it’s true. The old reiver is swiving the village ‘hure’!” He wondered what it took to seduce the likes of such a stubborn, doubting, righteous and ambivalent pessimist like the Bruce. If anyone could do it, he was certain Eireen could.

Eireen was as surprised as anyone when the Bruce came to her out of the blue one day with a sincere proposal of marriage and an offer to save her from a life of sin. “A keep tellin’ ye, Eireen. A’m a rich man. A can tak’ guid care of ye. A’ve lands, flocks, herds. All what’s missin’ is a hoose and a wyf.”

His persistence finally wins her over and she pledges to enter into a committed life-long partnership with him.

“Did he bend the knee, Lady Eireen?” Robyn inquired with an impish grin.

“Aye, that he did,” she replied affectionately. “Sweetest thing ye ever saw, that great lump of a man brought low over a common harlot! Of course, I accepted straight away.” This is bending the truth somewhat, but it makes for a good story.

“There you are, then,” Robyn concludes, finally reaching a bittersweet acceptance. It will not be the last time he will attempt to brandish his powers of persuasion in an attempt to convince her to bed him once again for old time’s sake. But such pleasures will have to wait for a future visit. She is still in mourning, after all.

Book Two Teaser


The Tavern_0011

In the Tavern

 

 

The Bruce promised a full three days together soon, but could not tell her when. Rather than torment herself with fruitless conjecture, Eireen decided the time had come to do a bit of sleuthing. Donning her winter dress, cloak and boots, she trudged the two blocks through the snow to the Red Dragon Inn.

“Robyn ap Gryffin! I knew I’d find ye here.”

Robyn glanced up from the dicing table. “Eireen, my lucky charm! Come, popsy, sit here beside me. Let me buy you a pint. Wench! An ale for my lady, if you please. And another round for my friends while you’re at it.”

Eireen flounced over to Robyn’s table while cheerfully blowing kisses to the rogues, drunkards, and scoundrels whose whistles and lewd salutations greeted her from every corner.

“So, what brings the vivacious Eireen to the Red Dragon this morning?”

“It’s well past morning, knave,” Eireen pointed out. “Have ye looked outside lately? How long have ye been at it this time?”

Robyn glanced around the table at each of his ne’er-do-well companions.  None of them offered a coherent reply. Robyn shrugged and raised his cup to the elusive passage of time. “What hour did they open, then? All I know is I’m winning. Come to think of it, didn’t I see one or two of you rapscallions loitering about in the wee hours waiting for the inn-keeper to unlock the doors? Better early than late, eh lads?” This elicited an assortment of chortles and unintelligible toasts from the assembled gamesters.

“I need a bit of history on your mountainous Highland friend if you wouldn’t mind passing on what ye know.”

“You mean the Bruce? Oh, Hell!” A snap of the fingers implied a sudden flash of memory. “I was meaning to ask you, Eireen, how did it go the other night? How long has it been, a week? Two?” Robyn gave her a good-natured nudge and a wink. “Now that I think on it, he has been in a better mood lately.”

“Thrice in a fortnight,” she confided.

The remark seemed to sober Robyn up in a hurry. “Wait,” he said, his eyes narrowing. “Did you say ‘thrice in a fortnight’?” His face betrayed a hint of outrage. His friends began to complain about the interruption to their game. “Deal me out of this round,” Robyn announced, collecting his winnings with a sweep of his arm. He shoved his stool away from the table. “Come, woman. We need to talk privately.” He steered her toward a small corner table near the window.

“All right, Eireen,” he said. “Let’s have it. What the Hell is going on?” He caught the eye of one of the tavern maids and motioned for her to bring a jug of ale to their corner.

“I was hoping you might give me some perspective,” she answered. “This friend o’ yours is nothing like what I imagined.”

“Oh? What’s that supposed to mean? You showed him a good time, I assume. Gave him what he paid for?”

“O’course. And more. Ye warned me he’d have little to say. Ye was right about that. Scarcely a word out of him the whole night.”

“Did he bring his barley-bree like I told him?”

“That he did. Wicked powerful elixir, that, especially when followed by Elderberry wine. I don’t think it affected him a bit. The man’s built like an ox. Nothing penetrates that invisible armor he wears.”

Robyn snorted in recognition. “So? I take it you were able to entice him to take part in the main sport.”

Eireen’s freckled face turned three shades of pink in the candlelight.  “Oh, aye. It took quite a bit o’warming up, but once the embers caught, that fire burned hot as the Devil’s Oven all night.”

“Spare me the details,” Robyn said with a grimace. “I thought the idea was to loosen him up with an evening’s entertainment and then send him on his way.”

“So did I,” Eireen replied, “It didn’t turn out that way.”

Robyn slammed his empty tankard on the table. “What the deuces are you saying, damn it?”

“No need to get angry,” Eireen said defensively. “You’ve no more a claim to me than half the men in this place.” She sighed. “And besides, who knows? I haven’t seen or heard from him in a week. Maybe he’s decided he’s already had his fill. That’s what I was hoping to talk to ye aboot – about.”

Robyn eyed her suspiciously. “Aboot? Eireen, you’ve taken a fancy to him, haven’t you? God’s blood! I should have known this would happen. Devil damn him!”

“Robyn ap Gryffin. Yer not jealous, are ye?”

“Of course not,” he snapped. “But you’ve been my girl for what? Five years? Longer? Now you tell me you’ve found someone to take my place? I’ll tell you I don’t like it one flaming bit! You would have to fall for the Bruce and not some sod I could easily beat in a fight.”

Eireen’s infectious laughter rose above the tavern din. “Gryffin, ye get what ye deserve.”

“Now what’s that got to do with anything? What’s the matter, Eireen? Don’t you love me anymore?”

“Blethers! Ye know I do, ye nidget. Now, some answers, if ye please.”

“Such as?”

“What d’ye know aboot – about – Master Bruce? Has he said anything about me? Do ye know if he’s ever been married? How old d’ye think he is? D’ye know anything about his kin? Where is he from? How did ye meet him?”

“Not half curious, are you? You once told me he was too serious for your taste. Obviously, you’ve changed your mind. When did this happen?”

“Since ye badgered us into spending the night together, that’s when.”

“Well, he didn’t break you, at least,” Robyn noted. “By the look of you, you’re still in one piece.”

Eireen dismissed his remark with a short laugh. “I must say, he’s not what I expected. Underneath that detached exterior lies an entirely different animal. I can only glean so much from the man himself; I’m forced to rely on secondary sources. I didn’t know who else to ask. Have ye known him a long time?”

“Years ago, on watch along the Northern border during a pre-dawn foray, we crashed straight into a band of reivers fresh from a raid, making off with with 30 head of Norman cattle, beating a tidy retreat to one of their sturdy stone towers where they could bide their time until it was safe to divide the spoils and go their separate ways. Expediency dictated we unite with them rather than join battle. As I recall, the Bruce was the leader of that raid or at least part of the patrol. Lord Tomas recognized an asset when he saw one and commissioned him to serve as the prince’s bodyguard, a more lucrative post and certainly a damn sight less risky than taking his chances as a border thief. He accepted, and he’s been with us ever since. I’ve heard he comes from a titled family and that he’s a landed lord himself. You’d never know it. He doesn’t brag or flaunt his wealth.”

“He seems like a very sincere person. Has that been yer experience with him?”

“Sincere?” Robyn shrugged. “I suppose. No one could rightfully call him a liar. I’ve always thought he was rather dogmatic. Once he forms an opinion about something it takes a lot to get him to budge off that first impression. One might conclude the man’s got a stubborn streak a mile long. And slow? Sweet suffering Christ! Your hair could turn gray waiting for him to do something – anything! He hates it when you ask him for a favor. And God forbid you should disturb his sleep. He grumbles and groans like it’s the biggest damned imposition ever wrought and he’ll never let you live it down – how much he had to sacrifice to deal with your petty demands and on and on. But if you let him think it was his idea in the first place, he’ll quietly walk to the ends of the earth for you without a word of complaint. I don’t know, Eireen. To say he’s a mystery would be an understatement. But I’ve never suspected him of ill-will or nefarious motives. If it weren’t for the Bruce, I’d never have met my dog, Merlin. I’ll tell you that story one of these days.”

“He’s asked me to go north with him when he goes.”

This brought Robyn’s head up sharp. “He what? You didn’t tell him you’d go, did you?”

Eireen inhaled and caught her breath briefly before releasing it in a long sigh. “I didn’t know what to say. He was quite vague about when. He just said ‘when the time comes.’  I’m afraid, Robyn. I’ve never had to consider such a big move. I know so little about the man. But he’s offering me a chance at a far more fulfilling future than anything I’ve contemplated before. What do you think I should do?”

“What do you want to do? Never mind, I already know. You want to go with him, don’t you?”

They sat staring at each other over the flickering candlelight, each considering the implications. “Devil damn,” Robyn repeated, his shoulders sagging. “Why does everybody have to leave at once?”

Eireen reached across the table for his hand. “I haven’t decided anything yet,” she said in an attempt to hearten him. “Besides, no one packs up and moves such a great distance in the middle of winter. Which brings me to another dilemma. Bruce seems to think that now we’ve lain together, we’re the same as husband and wife. He hasn’t come right out and said it, but he’s hinted that he would prefer me to end relations with other men.”

Robyn raised a brow. “That doesn’t include me, I hope?”

“I assume it does,” Eireen answered heavy-heartedly. “But as long as I continue to live at my current address, I’m essentially proclaiming my profession for all to see. The village people know me by name and are well aware of what I do for a living. Me patrons like to think they “own” me. I can’t exactly put out a “going-out-of-business” sign.”

Robyn chortled. He refilled his tankard and chugged more ale. Rattling the dice in the palm of his left hand, he gave her his lopsided grin. “We could always roll the dice and see what they say.”

“Or, better yet,” said Eireen. “I brought my Tarot deck. You can be my witness. When I do readings for myself at home I always think I’m guiding the outcome somehow.”

“You mean cheating? How can you cheat at Tarot?”

Eireen wagged her head. “I don’t know,” she said, drawing a single card from the deck and laying it in front of her.

“Ace of Chalices,” observed Robyn. “What does that mean?”

Eireen smiled. “It’s a good omen. The basic meaning promises a productive marriage and the realization of one’s hopes. And it’s upright, which means the feelings are mutual. It announces the beginning of a love affair, attraction, romance.”

“That card was for you, obviously,” Robyn concluded. “If it was for me, it would clearly signify a run of bad luck.”

“Ye needn’t fret,” Eireen assured him. “It was for me.”

“I’ll miss you,” Robyn said. He gave her one of his famous puppy-dog faces.

“I’ll miss you too, Robyn ap Gryffin,” she said, affectionately patting his hand. “I like talking to you. I wish I could take you with me.”

“There, you see?” he remarked. “You have decided. My bet is you’ll be packed and on the road by Spring. I’ll never see you again.”

“Don’t think like that,” Eireen said. “I believe we have yet to play a vital role in each other’s lives. But, Robyn, promise me you won’t do anything to put yerself in needless jeopardy. I don’t know why, but I worry about ye.”

Robyn scoffed. “As long as my luck holds, you needn’t worry about me, Eireen.”

Eireen


I’m still having trouble figuring out Eireen’s birth sign. She’s earthy and sensual with a business-like approach to her profession. Good money management and an innate ability to judge a man’s character have allowed her to create a relatively comfortable lifestyle for herself. Over the years she has managed to accumulate a few heirloom quality pieces of furniture which she cherishes. She exhibits the vivacious, outgoing nature of a Fire or Air sign while keeping her more vulnerable emotions safe inside. She is playful, flirtatious, and genuinely enjoys acting as hostess to her “guests”. She is known for taking the time to treat them to whatever entertainment they desire. She is well-versed in herbal lore and can put together a remedy or charm in record time. “Eirene’s pantry” has earned a reputation among the villagers as a source of magic and healing.

Abandoned at the tender age of fourteen, she did what she had to in order to survive. Aware of the effect her natural beauty and a curvaceous, full figure has on men, she has put these assets to good use and has taken care to look after her own state of health and has not neglected her looks. Her nurturing, affectionate personality coupled with the wisdom to take advantage of the kindness of strangers has held her in good stead and in fact, is part of what attracts the usually reserved, detached Bruce. He is impressed by her self-sufficiency and her sensible, down-to-earth approach. Her generosity of spirit takes him quite by surprise, however, and the fact that she does not judge or shame him, but welcomes him warmly into her home transforms his initial impression of her. He responds easily to the way she delights in offering him a variety of enticing experiences to help him relax and maximize his sensual pleasure.

I’ve toyed with the notion of giving her the sign of Scorpio, which is, of course, the sign associated with sex, mystery, and hypnotic attraction. It is also the opposite of the sign Taurus, a classic romantic combination. Eirene is far from secretive, vengeful, or controlling, which Scorpio can often be. As a fixed water sign, Scorpio can become manipulative and can be downright spiteful if their feelings have been hurt by a loved one. This is not how Eirene behaves. She is not above working a bit of love magic behind the scenes to influence the Powers That Be to encourage a relationship to go the way she wants it to.

She does express some of the qualities of a Moon Child, in that she can be changeable and quite funny at times. But she isn’t known for weepiness, dewy-eyes expectations, or a tendency to cling. The crab can be extremely tenacious in matters of the heart, digging in those famous pincers and refusing to let go, even if the relationship has become painful and abusive. She does possess the Cancerian love of heirlooms and treasured mementos.

Her Venusian love of beauty and sensuality are found in the Venus-ruled earth sign Taurus. as well as the Venusian air sign, Libra.  I’ve already given the sign of Libra to Evaine, who embodies the opposite qualities of her Mars-ruled Aries lover, Ciaran.  Eirene exhibits none of the passivity of Evaine, however. A cardinal air sign, Libra can be somewhat detached emotionally, while presenting all the trappings of romance – candlelight, pleasant aromas, colors and textures meant to stimulate the senses, love poems and romantic music and all the rest.

Eirene’s personality, while seemingly grounded in the practical, can sometimes become a bit flighty and abstract when swept up in the excitement of a new love affair. Anxiety provokes her to over-consult her Tarot cards, which ends in conflicting readings which only add to her anxiety.  Unlike earth and water signs, air signs tend to analyze their feelings rather than experience them.

I suppose there is no rule that says I can’t have two Libra feminine lead characters. The sign seems to fit her better than any of the others I have prescribed for her. Like Evaine, she has a wonderful, lilting, musical laugh, although Eirene’s also contains an earthy sensuousness to it at times.

 

 

Suffice it to say, she is still evolving as a character. So far, I am leaning toward Libra as the most likely Astrological energy for her. She is at best a blend of archetypes, which gives her more depth as a character but presents more of a challenge to the author (me) in predicting her future emotional reactions and behavior. So far, I am completely captivated by the flow of energy between these two incongruous, but destined lovers.

Virgo

In considering this character’s attitudes and behaviors, I have begun to consider the mutable earth sign Virgo as a possibility for Eirene. While The Virgin seems an unlikely choice for a lady of the night, let us remember that “The Virgin” does not necessarily connote lack of experience, but rather, one who is complete within herself. This fits Eirene’s independence and sense of wholeness. She is practical, down-to-earth, and sensible while at the same time dedicated to service. She has a tendency to compartmentalize her emotions, and can fall into the habit of analyzing her feelings instead of feeling them. She is organized, focused, and likes to remain in control of the situations she finds herself in. However, she does like to have a good time and is not entirely opposed to letting herself go in certain circumstances. While she remains somewhat mistrustful, she would like nothing better than to allow the right man to lead her. The attraction she feels for the Bruce (Taurus, The Bull) overwhelms her at times, which throws her usual equanimity into chaos.

 

 

 

The Bruce Character Development


Taurus the Bull – Earth Sign – Planetary Ruler – Venus
April 20th through May 21st
 
I just discovered that The Highlander’s birth sign is actually TAURUS, The Bull – ruled by the planet Venus – which gives him a May birthday. I initially imagined him as CANCER, The Crab, ruled by the Moon, but the more I thought about him and his quiet, introverted personality, the less lunar he seemed to me. Moods? Oh yes, but not the Moon Madness kind of giddy, hysterical mania that can overtake The Crab at times. He is much earthier and slow-moving than the typical Crab. Despite his great size, he possesses a strong, powerful, well-proportioned physique and maintains total authority over his physical senses whether in battle or in bed.
 
 

His path is through the body. He does not transcend the flesh. He revels in it, glows in it, celebrates it. Taurus must touch. That is basic. He finds the world through his senses, through his skin, through his fingertips.

 
He possesses an innate aversion to drama, a suspicion of complexity. He lives. He lets live. He settles back in his favorite chair. He feels the crisp taste of a perfect apple crunching in his mouth. He sees his children. He feels the solidness of his house and the efficiency of his body. And in some inexplicable way, he feels something no other sign can feel in quite the same way. He feels reverence.
 
Silence. Taurus is the most taciturn of all the signs. His essence is opposed to words, untranslatable into language. Silence breeds simplicity and simplicity breeds peace.
 
From Skymates, The Astrology of Love, Sex, and Intimacy by Steven Forrest and Jodie Forrest
 

The Bruce Character tags:

reserved, shy, restrained, uncommunicative, unforthcoming, tight-lipped, close-lipped, close-mouthed, secretive, taciturn, silent, quiet, diffident
His ruling planet, Venus, also imparts the following characteristics, not immediately visible to the naked eye: ardent, passionate, fervent, vehement, intense, earnest, eager, enthusiastic, heartfelt, sincere, zealous
 
He is not an easy man to get to know, but patience coupled with keen powers of observation and the willingness to learn his unspoken, kinesthetic language yield results well worth waiting for: Kindness, thoughtfulness, warmth, patience, affection, tolerance, gentleness, protectiveness.
 
According to Linda Goodman, The Taurus man is a slow starter in romance. Though he has an enormous capacity for love, it doesn’t burst into verbal or physical commitment overnight. Once it does blossom, however, it flowers beautifully, and usually permanently.Most Taurus men (not all, but most) don’t experience love in its total sexual and emotional fullness until they’re out of their teens (or even years later than that), long after their buddies have chalked up scores of “conquests,” live in affairs and a few marriages. But never forget that the Bull is enormously capable of making up for lost time, and the depth and intensity of his love is well worth waiting for. This man will not yield his complete self until the right woman arrives on the scene. He’ll take his good old time deciding, but his surrender, when it comes, is often instant, and his fidelity is eternal – if he isn’t pushed beyond great endurance by the incorrigible behavior of his partner.
 
“Observing him more closely, she began to understand that he communicated through touch rather than through the spoken word. He expressed himself indirectly through a complex lexicon of sighs, murmurs, grumbles, grunts, and mutterings. She imagined that in his introverted world, he must be finely attuned to the subtlest variations in his body’s tactile experience and she guessed that together with his sensual awareness, he also harbored many shades of emotion which were seldom expressed. She found herself reflecting on what a lonely life he must have lived. Intrigued by the mystery of this inscrutable stranger, Eireen set aside these musings, convincing herself that they must be the result of his “barley-bree” in combination with her elderberry wine.”

Writing with Power


I’ve been reading a book called WRITING WITH POWER by Peter Elbow. One of his recommended techniques is to plunge in and create “thumbnails” or sketches of possible scenes or plot lines.
These short narratives do not have to be in any particular order in terms of the novel’s timeline, nor do they need adhere to the usual format of “show, don’t tell” when creating a scene or chapter. These “snippets” may or may not contain dialog, description, and/or other details typically included in a novel.
The purpose of the excercise is to begin getting the fundamentals of your story down on paper. Later you will piece together a timeline and flesh out a full narrative from the fragments you have composed over time.
I have found this technique to be of tremendous benefit to me in terms of clarifying my purpose in tackling such an enormous project as constructing a novel in the first place. The idea is simply to begin setting down the context within which the story is to unfold.
I find it useful to create a notebook containing different sections – a section devoted to character profiles, back stories, and questionaires that help you to understand your characters on a deeper and more intimate level. This section can also contain illustrations and soundtracks, if these items prove to be worthwhile in getting a handle on the nuances of your characters.
Another section could contain nothing but scene and chapter ideas and might eventually expand to become fullblown scenes with dialog, description, and narrative detail. I have surprised myself while jotting down notes about potential scenes how quickly a bare bones outline develops into a richly detailed, highly nuanced piece of writing that may well end up in a final draft.
A blank page can be daunting when the expectation is that nothing less than pure brilliance shining from each and every paragraph is acceptable. When I wrote Book One of The Flamebearer, I followed a prescribed path, putting one foot in front of the other and slowly plodding along, proceeding from chapter to chapter with frequent stops to edit and polish what I had just written. It proved a painstaking and arduous process which stalled many times along the way and required numerous revisions and restarts, after having written myself into a cul-de-sac from which there was no escape other than to scrap large portions of writing and start over.
I now grasp Peter Elbow’s point – that this is the most dangerous way to proceed with any piece of writing, whether crafting a novel, a short story, or a non-fiction essay or memoir.
By allowing myself to jot down ideas as they occur to me, even if they seem minor at the time – a fragment of dialogue, an insight into the dynamic at play between two characters, or even a vague emotional impression that has yet to find its true power and meaning, the mere act of putting words on paper even without a clear idea of where the words might lead, establishes a flow, an incentive to keep writing.
Suddenly one is struck by the discovery that a story is beginning to take shape. The process actually becomes enjoyable, rather than drudgery. Soon, breakthroughs are more frequent than blockages, and innovation seems to spring from the ether. Yes, revisions and edits will be a part of the later stages of fine-tuning, tightening, and polishing, but the miracle is that now you have before you a substantive body of work to draw from. In fact, the real bonus of working this way is that you most likely will end up with far more material than you need. Then your primary focus will be on cutting clutter and redundancy and looking for the most explicit and direct way of imparting meaning with a minimum of repetition.
Imagine! Every author should be faced with such a dilemma – too many words rather than too few! The aspect of this method I find most enjoyable and intriguing is the ability to jump ahead to the fictional future and begin fleshing out possible endings while the middle has yet to be conceived. Working backward from the end to the beginning puts events into perpective in extremely enlightening ways. If you can see how a story ultimately ends, the challenge of discovering how to fit the pieces of the puzzle together in order to logically reach that destination becomes less burdonsome and more of an adventure.
The best stories are the ones that somehow feel inevitable without seeming contrived. In a character-driven plot, it is always the intrinsic nature of the character that seals his fate. Whether motivated by good or evil, he will make choices and decisions that drive him relentlessly toward a particular outcome, which in the hands of a good writer will keep the reader guessing until the end but when they reach the final scene, it feels like the natural conclusion to the long journey they’ve traveled with the author and characters. Sometimes you hate for a story to end. You’ve forged such an emotional bond with the characters that you want their drama to continue. Hint: That is what sequels are for!