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Map of the Known Land

 Welcome to the Known Land of Pasaron!

As with the text of The Proving, the map below is a work in progress. I hope to somehow create a very fancy, very “clean” version of the map in the future (God willing with the help of some excellent publishing company!), but this should suffice to orient early readers to the locales in The Proving. Below the map is a brief tour to help comprehend my messy penmanship. Click to enlarge.

Pasaron Mk3

The Touran Protectorates, outlined in yellow, are comprised of five duchies and the Coradis region. Think of each duchy as a state, and think of the one region as Washington DC… not really a state, but a thing of its own.

Beginning at the lower right we have the Erin Ocean and the five Blue Islands. The Blue Islands are part of the Coradis Region and are the best source in the known Land for hannon, an ocean plant extract that has hundreds of medicinal uses.

Two large bays cut into the Touran Protectorates, the Gulf of Sibor to the north and the Kirill Bay to the south. At the headwaters of the Kirill Bay lies Coradis City, capital of the Protectorates and of the Coradis Region.

North of the Coradis Region lies Jal Duchy, bordered by the Crispin Rush to the east and the Salley River to the west. Jal is dominated by vast farmland and is the breadbasket of Touran.

West of the Salley River and stretching to the Black Mountains lies Stantin Duchy. The Jagan Forest fills 80% of Stantin, and the duchy therefore produces vast supplies of timber as well as many textiles.

South of Stantin Duchy and extending to the Eastern Range lies Jesserin Duchy. The southwestern spur of Jesserin is called the Highlands, an area known for producing construction stone and iron ore. Eastern Jesserin contains part of the Heartland, known for livestock husbandry.

South of that lies Palladon Duchy, containing the Eastern Range and the rest of the Heartland. The Eastern Range holds vast mines rich with precious metals and gemstones while lacking the dangerous predators that live in the Black Mountains.

East of the Eastern Range and south Coradis Region lies Brandon Duchy. Brandon contains the Craven Marsh, a vast swampland that produces enormous quantities of marsh-oil. Marsh-oil is the cornerstone of society in the known Land, providing light, energy for modern infrastructure, and many other necessities.

Other features of note are the Ash Barrows, the Caroc, and the Cronian Pass. The Ash Barrows, from the southwest part of the Coradis Region into Brandon Duchy, is a vast, lifeless expanse of infertile soil resembling a heavy ash. No cities or towns exist there, and its very existence is one of the mysteries of the known Land. The Caroc, deep in the Black Mountains, is a giant peak more than ten times the height of the next largest mountain ever discovered. It’s heights are hidden within an enormous, centuries-old, rotating storm like a stationary hurricane whose torrents prevent adventurers from drawing near. Parallel with the northern border of Stantin Duchy is the Cronian Pass, the only easy route between the nations on either side of the Black Mountains. It was famously used by MasMindon to slowly smuggle an entire army into Touran during the reign of King Darren, resulting in the Six Month War.

In the final version of the map I expect to make Lake Haverlin bigger (north to south), but other than that, this map is sound. Let me know if you have any questions.

Thanks!

~Kevin

The Proving – Chapter 1

Greetings All!

Here is the first chapter of THE PROVING for review by anyone curious about the new (and hopefully final) form of the book’s beginning. Feel free to offer comments, positive or negative, or to ask for more if you aren’t already an advanced reader.

***********

1 Rhythm in the Night

Kir’Ana awoke with a start moments before crashing to the floor of the dark flagstone courtyard. She gasped but could not scream as every muscle in her body tensed.

Instinctively, she threw her hands before her face as if to somehow block the sudden death that awaited her. As Kir’Ana closed her eyes for what she knew would be the last time, she still saw the broad Erin courtyard of the castle stretched out in her mind’s eye. Kir’Ana pictured the triangular plaza in enormous detail, she realized ironically; shouldn’t she instead be seeing her life – all sixteen Summers of it – flash before her eyes while she faced such a brutal death?

Kir’Ana had always known that an assassin would one day bring about her death, but how had they managed this?

She felt cold stone on her hands and cried out as her forehead and knees smacked the unforgiving pavement. Kir’Ana rolled onto her back as a wave of dizziness struck. Clutching her forehead and panting as pain shot through her body, she sat up, opened her eyes, and fought to orient herself.

Her eyes stung. Was it sweat? No, blood ran down the bridge of her nose from her forehead. She used the hem of her nightgown to wipe it away, ignoring her torn knees and toes, then looked around at the deserted courtyard filled with moonlight. The ever-present sea breeze brought the brackish smell of the bay to her nose. She would have to —

Kir’Ana froze as the dizziness faded and her mind snapped into order. Her eyes widened as she quickly examined herself, patting her face and torso rapidly, and took stock of the obvious truth.

She was alive, and this was no dream. She looked up at the high castle walls looming above her, having no idea what she was expecting to see. Kir’Ana knew that there was neither balcony nor battlement on this side of Coradine Castle. There had not been a way in or out of the building above the east-facing Erin courtyard for nearly forty years.

Yet there she sat. Bleeding, confused, and suddenly very worried.

An assassin! It must have been! She thought with a mixture of terror and fury. I was pushed, or thrown, from the heights of the castle’s roof. After being drugged maybe?

Kir’Ana’s heart sank. She realized that there was another potential explanation for her fall of hundreds of feet from a part of the castle with no easy access to the outside; an explanation that did not involve foul play.

Don’t panic, Kir. Stay in rhythm… stay in rhythm! She repeated to herself as she stumbled to her bare feet. She remembered Sir Jason’s strong voice repeating the words. Stay in rhythm… Stay in rhythm. The knight had drilled Kir’Ana since she was a child to focus on the immediate, rejecting distractions of any kind. Keep your mind and body immersed in the rhythm of the moment, he would say, whether during combat or the delivery of a speech. Stay in rhythm.

“I have to get back inside,” Kir’Ana whispered aloud as she crossed to the inner wall of the courtyard. “I have to stay out of sight, not be noticed… and I have to bandage this wound.”

She put all other thoughts out of her head as she followed the curve of the wall. None of the royal guard had seen her, she was certain, since no alarms rang. Kir’Ana tore the left sleeve from her nightgown as she crept towards the Steward’s Foyer on the north side of the castle. That was the only entrance that might be open at this hour. Late night deliveries of food or beverages to the royal kitchens were rare, but not unheard of. If the gate was closed—

Stay in rhythm. Sir Jason’s words again rose to the surface of her thoughts. One thing at a time. Live in the moment.

Kir’Ana tied the long white sleeve around her brow like a sweatband, wincing at the pain of her raw forehead.

“Even if I do make it back inside without being noticed, and make it back up the upper floors unseen, how do I explain my wounds?” she whispered into the shadows. “My bloody knees and toes are likely leaving a trail that anyone-,”

Stay in rhythm.

Kir’Ana peered around the castle’s northeast corner, crouching low. There were no guards in sight, but there was also no light streaming forth from the Steward’s Foyer. It was closed.

“Nightwings!” she cursed under her breath, then slid around the corner anyway. As much as she feared it, there was another way into the castle.

A group of three guards stepped into view from across the Steward’s courtyard, talking quietly. Kir’Ana dove behind a stack of barrels just a few feet from the Foyer and held her breath. Her heart pounded and her wounds throbbed painfully along with it. Panic rose within her throat. The troop walked to within feet of her hiding place, then continued their march into the Erin Courtyard. Kir’Ana exhaled, then crept over to the ten-foot high wooden door that barred passage into the Steward’s Foyer and the kitchens beyond.

Kir’Ana placed both hands on the cold wood.

Okay… just like last time. You can do this, Kir, she thought as she leaned harder and harder against the huge door. Blood was beginning to leak through her headband bandage, but she ignored it as she closed her eyes and focused on what she had done one week prior.

You need to get through. You need to get through this door. She pushed with even more intensity, putting all of her weight against the locked portal. You must get through. You must.

Then, holding her breath, Kir’Ana closed her eyes.

And landed with a thud on the stone floor inside the Steward’s Foyer.

Kir’Ana gasped as she lay there on the other side of the still-sealed door. Her feet were still not completely through. Her legs simply ended at the surface of the door’s planks as if sliced off. She could feel her feet on the other side of the solid wood, the night breeze chilling her toes.

With a whimper-like yelp, she yanked both knees towards her chin and rolled to a crouch. Her feet and legs looked fine, as if nothing had happened. As before, Kir’Ana felt nothing when she passed through the solid door as if it were made of nothing more than smoke.

Stay in rhythm.

Kir’Ana put the impossible act out of her mind and sped across the Foyer, through the empty kitchens, and into the castle proper. She had snuck around the great keep that was her home so many hundreds of times over the years that this part of her adventure posed no challenge. She knew every guard station and hidden passageway. More importantly, she knew which guards were most likely to be dozing.

If I can just make it to the kitchen rear stairs, she thought, and if either Hunlon or Pistarak are on duty and napping…

“Kir’Ana, is that you?” came an intense whisper from the shadows. Kir’Ana froze in a crouch, her hand instinctively at her side to grasp the rapier hilt that was not there. Then she realized that the voice was familiar.

“Jerine?” Kir’Ana whispered back.

The tall, redheaded Jerine crept out of the gloom and into a shaft of moonlight let in by the narrow windows near the staircase. She wore a long, dark nightgown and slippers.

“What are you doing sneaking around without me!” Kir’Ana cried in a whisper, stepping out to take her friend’s hand and pull her away from the silvery light.

“What happened to you?” Jerine breathed in a worried whisper. “You’re bleeding! Were you sleepwalking again? What-,”

“I can’t explain right now,” Kir’Ana interrupted quietly but firmly. “Yes, I think I was sleepwalking.” That much was probably true, she thought. “I got locked out of the castle. I had to sneak back in.”

“Locked out? How? Look, never mind… when we sneak around for fun, that’s fine. But you’re hurt! Just go to the guards and let them get a physician. You are the princess. Your mother will not care about some harmless sneaking when your health is-,”

“No!” Kir’Ana breathed furiously. “I can’t.”

Jerine stepped even closer.

“What is going on? You haven’t been yourself in weeks, months even. You know you can talk to me. Tell me what’s happening.”

Kir’Ana sighed quietly, realizing that she had little choice. Besides, she might need help with what she must do next.

“You must promise to tell no one. Especially my mother or any member of the royal guard. Swear to secrecy, right now, and… and I’ll tell you everything.”

Silence. Kir’Ana knew that Jerine was slowly beginning to understand that there was a lot more going on than met the eye. Blood dripped into the young princess’ eye, stinging badly. Her throbbing head and the pain in her knees and toes was getting worse. With a start, Kir’Ana reconsidered what had happened, and again wondered how she could still be alive.

Stay in rhythm.

“Swear it, Jerine Masterson!”

Kir’Ana could hear Jerine swallow dryly.

“I swear it. I will tell no one.”

Kir’Ana sighed again, leaning back against the cool stone wall.

“I leave for Pallas in just a few days,” Kir’Ana murmured.

“For your apprenticeship with the Grey Shields. Is there a problem? I know it took you forever to convince your mother to let you go.”

“I’m not going the apprenticeship. I’m leaving, and not coming back. Ever.”

“Stop it, Kir’Ana. Just stop it. That makes no sense at all. What do you mean you’re not coming back? Where would you go? How would you go? Why would you want to? Your mother-,”

“I am doing this for my mother,” Kir’Ana replied. “And for the good of the Protectorates. I have to go.”

“Why?”

Kir’Ana rested her swelling forehead in her hand. Then she dropped her voice even lower and leaned toward her old friend.

“Because I am Emergent. Because the Crown Princess of Touran is going insane. And if my mother finds out, she will move the foundations of Pasaron to try to help me, putting the kingdom at risk. I can’t let that happen.”

The truth of those words stung Kir’Ana as she uttered them aloud for the first time. If a Touran Queen’s only child were to die or go missing, by law she must give birth or adopt a new heir. But Kir’Ana would soon go mad; all Emergents did, and often violently so. She knew her mother well. It would kill her to replace her only daughter if she still lived. However, there was no cure for Emergence. With all of the other problems plaguing the Protectorates, both foreign and domestic, a leadership crisis could be disastrous.

So Kir’Ana would disappear, allowing everyone in Touran to consider her dead. Freeing her mother to do what she must in the name of the kingdom.
Jerine said nothing. Kir’Ana found Jerine’s hand in the dark and led her out into the hallway.

“Follow me back to my rooms,” Kir’Ana said. “I could use some help with these wounds. And I’ll answer every question you have.”

***********

Thanks for reading!

~Kevin

Feedback from the Field

This time around I am going to post some of the feedback early readers provide about THE PROVING in its unedited advanced reading stage. Hopefully some of the “cross-pollination” this will yield will help me gather additional intel on everyone’s likes and dislikes.

Comments from June 22nd:

“Pretty darn good read. I think it is an improvement over your last effort. There were some other grammar errors where you had the wrong word in a sentence, but spell check won’t pick it up. I do like how you condensed the number of points of view of the story over last time. However there are still lots of characters in the story to keep track of and remember. As a first book in a series there was lots of character development and took a while to get going. The climax in “To Lose and to Gain” was slightly underwhelming for me and I didn’t get the sense of an epic battle between the two sides. The rush to save the kingdom in “Diversion” was a bit better, but we kind of lose sight of our heroes’ roles in the battle to save the day. Consider expanding it a bit and build a bit of depth to other heroes performing a heroic action or two to help save the day. We see that from the Princess and Annix but the others get a sentence here and there that they were essentially around on the battlefield and doing things. Perhaps have them saving some other non-emergent characters.”

This early reader also went on to say that the book could benefit from maps and a glossary, which of course I embrace! The other comments are solid… going to give some serious thought to how the final chapters play out.

And some Comments from June 24th:

“I am up to chapter 7. Great descriptions! I love the further description of the scene with the cart falling into the river. Excited to keep reading. No problem! I love the term “Rents”. The tie into apprentice, but with the idea they can be bought for a time – very clever! The only thing I don’t know about is the “Erin courtyard”. Is this the name of the courtyard or a style of courtyard? A quick blurb in there describing why it is named such might be helpful.”

Good idea! Especially since I don’ t plan to include a map of Coradine Castle in the book.

More to come soon!

Kevin

Banned Hits from the Touran Top 40!

No, the Touran Protectorates don’t have a radio station. Yet. But if they did, Bard’s Tales would be top 40 hits! But in The Proving, dark forces work to destroy the Priory of Bards.

Here’s a sample of an oldie-but-goodie from the golden age of Touran Bard’s Tales: The Price.

“Farewell, my love,” said the soldier at dawn,
To his love, with tears, as she begged him to stay,
I may not, I am called, battle rages on,
They oppress us, my love, I will make them pay.

“We are lost,” said the General, in the high noon sun,
On the field, stained red, his men but a few,
Then great Knights, clad in silver, charged as one,
“If the price must be paid, we will pay it, not you.”

Years passed, and the soldier, now King of the west,
Saw the verdant moon’s rise, come to claim life anew,
Rode forth, clad in silver, his people at rest,
“If the price must be paid, I will pay it, not you.”

I suppose it was Tolkien who spoiled me by including songs in his writing. But they are a must-have for me. It’s a bonus when songs can actually have meaning in the plot. Hoping to soon take the time to write music for this tale and others.

~Kevin

Murder on the Touran Express

I don’t read mystery novels. But many of my favorite fantasy books have an element of mystery to them. How does Thomas Covenant use his white gold ring without using his white gold ring? Why does the wardrobe take Lucy to the Lamp Post? Who killed Asmodean? Why can Errand touch the Orb of Aldur? And so on.

I think you know where I’m going with this.

Some say that I tend to over-write. I use six words when three would suffice. I think they’re right. But from another perspective, I let a lot of The Proving go untold… for the reader to figure out.

At last count, I left about a dozen big gaps in the story. Odds are, in other words, that a discerning reader will think, “ooooh, Kevin missed that…”, but there’s a good chance that the reader has stumbled upon an intentional gap. Some of these involve the big picture story arc that will eventually fill nine books. Some involve characters with hidden motives. Some are really obvious. But some can easily be missed if the text is only casually read.

Can’t wait to see what “gaps” the early readers find!

Until next time,

~Kevin

The Proving – Unedited Advanced Reader Copy

Greetings all,

As those of you who know me in the Facebook universe already know, the re-write of The Proving is complete! The unedited ARC is ready for distribution to anyone who is interested and willing to give feedback.

I think the final product works. While I am biased, I think the strong points are the complexity of the plot and the clearly meaningful themes behind how the protagonists turn into heroes. On the other hand, I am still concerned about the balance between exposition and action, and wonder if my original structure just has too many characters that need to be followed. Another point involves finding a balance between major plot lines that are all resolved in the end versus some of the semi-major plot lines that are intentionally left open to support a sequel. But I am way to close to the material to make these judgments… so, Help!

Note that there is a very comprehensive glossary for The Proving that is NOT included in the manuscript. I will either post it here on the blog or email it out separately to those interested.

Until next time!

~Kevin

Character Development vs. Action

Greetings, all!

There is a certain tension in writing fantasy between the drama and conflict that must be present to keep the plot alive and the action that brings excitement to the text. As I write a number of big, sub-climax scenes that are leading up to the end of The Proving, I am finding that the balance is much less difficult to maintain. Maybe it’s just the practice I’ve had during the first 85k words that is making the last 15k feel easier. Or maybe I’m just naive a and early readers will say ‘no… You need to fix it again…’. Either option is fine really, so I am counting it a blessing that the final chapters are flowing smoothly. My plan is to complete this (hopefully) final draft by Father’s Day. Please let me know if you are interested in being an early reader of the new draft. The more the merrier!

Incidentally, what’s more fun than writing about island plateaus afloat in a sea of lava, each connected by towering spans of stone and crystal that are grown like plants from the barren cliffs? Nothing, I tell you!

More to come…

~Kevin

Yeah… It’s been a while…

But the end is in sight! The end being completion, not some horrible quitting event. While my blog has been sleeping I have been working, and re-write #6 is now tipping the scales at 84k words! I am on schedule to be done right at 100k words and have been clipping along at about 1000 words per day this past week, so the end is REALLY near! I will post tomorrow and on to update you all on the details of THE PROVING’s big final scenes. But let me just say they are making me really, really happy.

More soon!

~Kevin (TheTomeWriter)

Playing the Name Game

Hello, all!

The entire summer has passed without a lot of action here on the blog, but The Proving has progressed consistently. Change is always the only constant, and the most recent wave of changes are quite central to the story. I have always been very picky about names… perhaps too picky! I received feedback from some of the experienced-people-that-really-matter types over at Author Salon that many of my character names were much too Tolkien-esque. I’ve heard similar feedback from some of my peer reviewers, so I decided to make a few changes.

The co-protagonists in The Proving were originally Argand and princess Darian. Argand Mason is now Ayr’Anax Mastoro (AIR-an-ax must-OR-oh). But his friends and family just call him Annix. Darian Touran, heir to the Touran throne, is now Kir’Ana Touran (keer-AH-na TOUR-en).

A few of the supporting protagonists’ names have changed as well, but you will see those within the sample chapters of the re-written book in due time.

Another major change has to do with the characters ages. Several early readers have chimed in that my heroes were just too old for a Young Adult novel. All of you (and you know who you are!) were right! Now all of the group of protagonists are sixteen years old, while the bad guys are still a bit older.

Updated sample chapters will be posted soon, starting back from the beginning.

More soon!

~Kevin

Progress!

Back to the blog!

I think that there will be amazement – on the part of some – at just how much has changed in THE PROVING over the past few weeks and months. But these changes have really been shifts in how the story is revealed as opposed to changes in what the story contains. Many chapters that appeared in the original draft of EMERGENCE are gone, replaced by new experiences in the lives of other characters. But the missing scenes aren’t actually gone. They simply aren’t seen “live” by the reader.

The rewrite of THE PROVING is approximately 60% complete. While I have cut enormous numbers of words from the draft in order to have a chance at hitting my word count goal, I am still a good 15% over budget. But I have decided to not fret too much about that… for now. Complete the re-write, go back and polish it, THEN make cuts for word count purposes. That’s the plan!

More to come!

Kevin