Words in May, week 4

This was a productive week in terms of writing, but not in terms of tracking my work! I think I missed one or two days, but I worked exclusively on Bright Future, and published a new chapter on… Wednesday?

It’s good to get back to working on this fic, but man, I’ve forgotten SO MUCH. I am fighting a constant battle between “I should include this encounter, for completeness’ sake” and “I actually have no idea how this played out any more; can I just skip to the feels?”

Otherwise? Enjoy a picture of an azalea or rhododendron in my yard.

(Stupid plant fact: “rhododendron” is Greek for “rose tree”).

Fanfic journal: “Bright Future, chapter 13

Read chapter 13 (“Jaluk d’quellar”) here.

Chapter Summary

On the search for the purple worm egg, Mavash and her companions find a troglodyte lair. Jorlan tries to counsel Mavash against trying to save everyone. (Good luck with that).

Chapter End Notes

On my first pass, I honestly didn’t have many end notes for this. I was very tired when I was adding it to AO3, and thus my motivation was low. But then I wrote a little bit about my writing process on Twitter and used this chapter as an example. Lo and behold, I do have stuff to say!

A thread about POV and narrative distance, and how I occasionally remember how to write.

Also worth noting: jaluk d’quellar is a word I cobbled together from the sad excuse for a Drow conlang we have. Jaluk means “male”; qu’ellar means “noble house,” and they’re tied together by the word del, which is “of”, and which is often shortened to de or d’.

I took out the apostrophe in qu’ellar because it seems to be a convention to do so when you stick together multiple words with apostrophes (see: el’lar and qu’ellar. Also just… there is a limit on how many apostrophes I want to stick in a sentence, and jaluk d’qu’ellar hit that limit for me.

(What do apostrophes mean in Drow, anyway? Sometimes they seem to mark a shortening of words, as in English, but other times they’re just… there. Are they a glottal stop? A stress marking? All questions a linguist would have asking in building a consistent conlang, but we don’t have that here. Alas).

Speaking of language conventions, it seems to be a tradition when writing about elves to use “male” and “female” as nouns, instead of “man” or “woman.” Presumably this is because “man” and “woman” have a specifically human connotation. (I think of the Elder Scrolls, with the contrast of “men and mer”).

“Venturing the Uncharted,” a fantastic Baldur’s Gate 2/D&D fanfic I read recently, brought this convention to my attention, and made me think about why I only sometimes follow this convention.

Quite frankly, using “male” and “female” as nouns makes me uncomfortable. It always reminds me of creepy MRA and incel types using “females” as a pejorative; it also equates gender with sex, which I don’t like to do.

Tl;dr, I don’t always do this, and I can’t promise I will start, so please just imagine it’s an infelicity of translation.

By the way, if you haven’t read it yet, I’d like to point you to my essay On making the drow less problematic. I have Opinions on this, as someone who’s been a murder elf fancier since 2e.


In completion of Words in May, day 29.

Words in May, week 3

Not the most productive writing week — but in my defense, this week started with having to put one of my cats to sleep and hit a high point on Wednesday when I came down with a stomach bug. It was, quite literally, a shit week.

What writing I did this week was on fanfic and blog posts.

  1. Began work on my drow headcanon post.
  2. Worked on my drow headcanon post.
  3. Worked on Bright Future.
  4. Nothing
  5. Worked on Bright Future.
  6. Nothing
  7. Nothing

Here’s a sample from my drow headcanon post, for your delectation.

Given this, I believe that drow culture is deeply selfish, and that most individual drow see no harm in shoving another one in front of the metaphorical bus. (Purple worm? Demon prince?) This leads naturally to the belief that anyone you screw over probably brought it on themselves.

That is evil. But it’s not mustache-twirling, “let’s arrange overly complex tortures for our enemies” evil. As I said at one point re: my boy Jorlan: while he’s definitely suffered in drow society, it’s mostly through neglect. No one’s ever gone out of their way to be cacklingly evil to him, because that is simply more fucks than anyone has ever given for him.

And, honestly? I find that utter disregard more evil, more terrifying, than any overly creative torture some teenaged fanboy would come up with.

Words in May, week two

Slightly less productive this week, but it’s not nothing!

  1. Nothing
  2. Worked on Bright Future
  3. Lioness query to Seth Fishman
  4. Nothing
  5. Lioness query to Amanda Rutter
  6. Worked on Bright Future
  7. Worked on Bright Future

Here’s a snippet of Bright Future, for your enjoyment (?)

Gaulir lifted his sword. “Dawnbringer?” he queried.

“Keep it dim,” Jorlan said, “and stand back from the ledge.”

There was a shimmer in the air, and the darkness was rent by an ethereal form — a woman’s shape, glowing blue. She, not it, Dawnbringer informed them, a tartness to her tone even through the psychic link. The figure disappeared just the sword flared with a dim orange light.

It was rare for Dawn to show herself like that; Mavash gathered it took a tremendous amount of energy. Jorlan hadn’t yet seen her manifest, but if he was surprised, it didn’t show on his face.

Lux gave Jorlan a stern look, softened with a half-smile. “Don’t you dare misgender a sword.”

He raised his hands in a placating gesture. “Far be it from me.”

And also please enjoy this picture of a showy dogwood blossom! I just discovered this tree in my yard this week, and I’ve lived here… 15 years? I believe it’s Cornus florida, the flowering dogwood. While native in some parts of New England, this one was probably planted. Until earlier this year, there was an invasive Norway maple overshadowing it, so it’s very possible this is the first year it’s bloomed!

Words in May, day 10

Slow start to the week!

  • I got nothing done on day 8
  • Day 10 I got a Lioness query out to Seth Fishman.

Day 9, I worked more on Bright Future. A snippet from that:

But seriously. She was so… level. Cold. I don’t expect that from teenagers. In my experience they’re nothing but a roiling mass of feelings. And that’s basically what she is, in drow years, right?

If she were in Menzoberranzan, she’d not even be old enough to go to Tier Breche. Beside her, she heard Jorlan make a heavy sigh before continuing, Look, Mavash. You need to stop paying so much attention to her emotions. It’s… rude.

She looked askance at him, frowning her confusion. Rude? I’m only concerned.

Doubtless she thinks she’s already revealed too much of herself, breaking into tears when we met her. Understandable, as she was under a lot of stress–

Stress? She had a broken foot, she’s being hunted by drow scouts, and her mother is missing and presumed dead. What do you expect from a young girl?

He stopped abruptly, his boot scraping rough against the tunnel. A light burned in his red eyes, a fire seen through smoked glass. She’s a woman-child, and drow at that, and I promise you she would not survive her first year– He cut off, sighing under his breath. Why do I even care? And why do I try to explain these things to you? He continued walking, his steps speeding to pass Mavash, his mind suddenly as impenetrable as a steel wall.

That stabbed her, a shard of ice in her throat. I want to understand, she mindspoke, her word-thoughts whispery faint. Unbidden, came the thought, I want to understand you.

And then, of a sudden, she understood: this conversation wasn’t really about Hanne, was it?

(This is a telepathic conversation, where I use italics for word-thoughts. Since block quotes reverse the italicization… you get the weird formatting above).

Words in May, week one

Week one of Words in May has largely been a success, despite it being a shit week in so many ways (sick cat; feeling groggy from COVID vaccine dose 2). Here’s what I got up to on each day:

  1. Finished and posted On making the drow less problematic.
  2. Finished and posted a new chapter of Bright Future.
  3. Started a new chapter of Bright Future.
  4. Nada.
  5. Got back to querying agents for Lioness; queried Paige Terlip.
  6. Queried Nephele Tempest.
  7. Wrote and posted Dumb Plant Facts with Lise: the shit rose Multiflora.

Six out of seven is an acceptable grade, so I will take it!

Today? I dunno, maybe more work on Bright Future?

Dumb Plant Facts with Lise: the shit rose Multiflora

(In fulfillment of day 7 of Words in May)

Multiflora rose — whose Latin name is Rosa multiflora, logically enough — is kind of a shit rose.

A lovely portrait of a shit rose.

It is native to east Asia, but definitely not North America, where it has become wildly invasive.

… if you know me at all, you know I have a bee in my bonnet about the term “invasive,” but my definition of a shitty invasive is “can I find it naturalized in woodlands behind my house?”

And indeed I can. Especially in reclaimed areas, you can find thickets of it and Asiatic bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) intertwined, choking out native plants and doing its shitty best to give me the 3.476 thorn scratches I am required to display after every walk through woods.

Why the heck is it even in this country? It is yet another example of “let’s bring in a non-native plant to help with an ecological problem…. WELL I GUESS THAT BACKFIRED.” The problem was soil erosion; now you have the problem that is UP TO MY EYEBALLS IN SHIT ROSES.

You see it a lot in reclaimed farmlands, where it was used extensively as a cattle brake. Why? This might surprise you, but it turns out that cows don’t like running face first into a wall of thorns.

This is the Wei. My mom had a Chinese exchange student named Wei (first tone, straight line over the “i” in Pinyin). We were trying to figure out what her name translated to; she knew it was a type of flower but she didn’t know the translation in English. So she asked Chinese-language Google, and lo and behold, it means “multiflora rose.”

… it’s an awkward conversation to tell someone they share a name with an invasive species. Usually I only have those conversations with leshy in my Pathfinder games.

The way to tell multiflora rose apart from other, less shit roses? Well, for one thing it has large inflorescences. That’s a botany way of saying “big-ass flowers.” They are usually white, too, and there are lots of them on a single branch.

But my favorite ONE WEIRD TRICK to identifying multiflora rose? The petiole (leaf stalk) looks like a feather:

Behold: a shit rose feather.

In conclusion: multiflora rose: unless you have cattle, absolutely no good will come of having this in your yard.

Words in May, days 4 and 5

I got my second COVID vaccine yesterday, which left me feeling generally groggy and like the field where I sow my fucks was barren. Hence, nothing for day 4.

For day 5, I’m getting back to querying Lioness. (Somewhat spurred onby getting a promising rejection on a full MS on Monday). Today I queried Paige Terlip of Andrea Brown Literary Agency, who seemed the most appropriate choice at that agency.

Since this is a short post, please enjoy some photos from my recent walk in the woods!

Words in May, Day 3

Today’s work: I started a new chapter of Bright Future. This one will cover the troglodyte lair in the Wormwrithings, and how mah boi acquired the sword Oloth tlu malla — an event I allude to in the chapter “Siltrin.”

It’s been a while since I played through this part of the campaign, so I am definitely backfilling and embellishing where it seems fun.

Apparently toilet humor seems fun today.

Here’s a snippet:

Hanne had grown more enthusiastic during their travel through the worm tunnels, taking it upon herself to serve as a sort of tour guide. There were the marks left by others of the Dark Hunters on their way towards this tunnel; here the way was lit by nightlight fungus, and did they know that? (They did). She even stopped to point out a pile of worm scat that might be searched through for diamonds. (Mavash declined).

Lux turned with a goofy smile to Jorlan. “I wonder if you were revivified with a poop diamond.”

“Don’t worry, Jorlan, Gaulir’s diamonds are certified poop-free.” Mavash elbowed him in the ribs as she passed him in the tunnel; he had stopped, looking thoughtfully back at the pile of scat Hanne had pointed out. “That juice is definitely not worth the squeeze, as we say on the surface.”

Jorlan returned his attention to the group with a scowl. “Thank you for that delightful mental image. No, I was just wondering…” He glanced over his shoulder again, looking like someone was about to put a knife in his back. “Hanne, how long ago would you say that worm passed through here?”

The young hunter was busy scoring the wall of the tunnel with a blade — her own trail of breadcrumbs, Mavash figured. “Ten days, maybe? But this is an old tunnel.”

Jorlan adjusted his pack on his back and fell into line behind Mavash. “Suppose one of these worms came barreling down the tunnels while we were in it…”

Hanne turned back, her lips twisting in a mischievous look. “Suppose it didn’t.”

Fanfic journal: “Bright Future, chapter 12

Read chapter 12 (“Abban”) here.

(Yes, I’ve already had a chapter 12. That damn chapter “Siltrin” is still a bit ahead of this. So this is the new chapter 12. For now. Just go with it).

Chapter Summary

Mavash and company enter the Wormwrithings on the hunt for a purple worm egg. When they meet another exile of the drow, Jorlan is tasked with easing some of her cultural suspiciousness — and maybe his own, in the bargain.

Chapter End Notes

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Since my last chapter, we actually finished our campaign. Let me assure you, it was a satisfying ending to the campaign, and it brought tears to my eyes. But… I still miss Mavash and Jorlan <3

Random notes:

  • “Abban” is the Drow word for “ally” or “not-enemy.”
  • When I began writing this fic, I did not realize that 5e darkvision is not the same as the infravision of 2e — it’s only intended as low-light vision. I’m not sure why it’s not infravision any more; so many aspects of drow culture only make sense if they can see into the heat spectrum. So my final call is that my drow (and all elves, really) have infravision. Please excuse any inconsistencies on this account.
  • Huh, looking up this chapter in the adventure, I realize that Zhora and Hanne are not supposed to be Eilistraeean renegades, as written. I definitely think this makes it more interesting!

(Written for Words in May, day two)