Saturday, August 14, 2010

Entry for the Weather Blogfest

A Little Slice of Nothing is running a Weather Blogfest today. I joined because I have a lot of rain in my book and I would love any feedback on weak spots or at least your feelings about the scenes (there will be a second scene next week for the Rainy Day blogfest).

I have a simple little scene just at the beginning of the deluge. The point was simply to ramp up the hints about some upcoming military action, while also showing that this POV character falls ill. Geldrath is a young man who is heading north to fulfull the required two years of military service for the king. He is riding in a merchant cart with three dwarves.


The summer rains behaved strangely this year. Usually they came thundering in each afternoon for several weeks, dark clouds roiling and lightning flashing, lasting only until evening. This year the rains came and didn’t stop.

For the past three days the mules had strained to pull the wagon through the mire. The four companions sat with hoods drawn, lost in their own thoughts. The sound of the rain drowned out all other noise, except for the thunder that followed the jagged flashing of lightning.

Several times the wagon plodded past farmers watching helplessly as their fields flooded with too much water. Geldrath knew how they felt. Each year the farmers of Kalinford had looked forward to the summer rains to help their crops, but this much rain could do more damage than good.

The worst part for Geldrath was making camp each night. Gorm insisted on continuing his martial education. “You can’t choose the weather when you must fight,” was all the dwarf said when Geldrath complained. When Geldrath gave only a half-hearted effort, Gorm gave him a sharp crack in the ribs with his stave and cursed at him. “Do you wish to die so badly, boy? You can’t let the weather get to you. You can’t let anything interfere with your focus on your foe, that is, if you want to live!”

Geldrath had risen out of the mud, shook the water out of his eyes, and tried to concentrate on his lessons. The day before the rain had begun, he had started to feel a sense of confidence during the sparring. He could hold his own for a short while, though the strength and experience of the dwarf always told in the long run. He felt a growing pride that he could fend for himself with at least one weapon, and he didn’t want Gorm to grow angry with him and discontinue the lessons.

Now he lay under a wet blanket in the bed of the wagon, the warmth of Barmin pressed up against his side. Though an oiled leather tarp covered the wagon, water managed to seep in anyhow. Sleep came slowly under these miserable conditions, and to make matters worse Geldrath felt his throat beginning to hurt and his nose run. That’s just what I need--bruised ribs, no sleep, soaked clothing, and then a sickness to boot!

When Geldrath tried to roll over and find a more comfortable position, Barmin grunted irritably at him. Geldrath lay on the hard boxes and thought about his brother and East Gate. Just when he thought that sleep would never come, he jerked awake in silent darkness. Silence! The rain has stopped! He wondered if the silence had woken him, but then he heard a distant noise.

He sat up, pushed the blanket from his head, and lifted the tarp a crack. He heard a clinking sound and a low rumbling from far off down the road to the south. Riders. A group of them. The sound grew and Geldrath recognized the sound of hooves splashing through puddles and the jingle of harnesses.

His head now poking out of the tarp, Geldrath noticed that Gorm was awake also. His eyes glittered in the bright light of a big half moon. The two smaller moons were not visible, and Geldrath was glad since he’d never liked the tiny red moon. The more superstitious folk considered it bad luck at best. He heard Gorm winding a crossbow under the tarp. The dwarf looked over at Geldrath, shrugged, and whispered, “Just in case, eh?”

Geldrath felt around for his cudgel, found it, and drew it out onto his blanket. The riders would be in sight any moment. He wasn’t too concerned. If there was any real danger, Gorm would be waking the others. Bandits were rare in this part of the Southlands. As his eyes strained in the darkness to see the riders, his ears told him it was a large troop indeed.

They appeared from behind the small stand of trees that screened the view of the road. The riders moved in pairs, bulging packs draped around the horses. The shapes of spears, bow staves, and swords poked from the bundles. He counted thirty-three soldiers, the last riding solo behind the others. He wondered why this band was out in such force at this time of night. He wondered where they came from. Kalinford had a bare handful of men who were trained enough to be called soldiers in time of need. He decided that they must come from the small keep at Trasken Ford. He had visited Trasken Ford several times with his father and brother to sell and buy goods at the large autumn market, and he’d seen the small stone keep where his liege lord lived. He assumed Lord Magdor must have enough soldiers to field this troop. But, why would they be trekking so far from home? Does it have something to do with the gathering of troops that the courier was talking about?

The soldiers barely glanced at the wagon as they passed. Gorm released the tension in his crossbow and tucked it away. He watched Geldrath stow his cudgel, and then whispered, “Get some sleep, lad, we’ll be reaching Lythandia tomorrow with luck.”

Geldrath felt a twinge of excitement. It would be good to see the large city and have a break from the routine of travel, camping, and training. He realized that the soldiers might even be from Lythandia.

He lay back in the blankets, cold, wet, and sick, but happy that the rain had stopped at last. A distant yet loud crash of thunder shook the wagon, and the mules cried out. He fell asleep to the rumbling snores of Barmin and Valgorn.


  1. Hi Ted!

    A wonderful passage. You know fantasy isn't a genre I tend to read, but I like the atmosphere you create for your characters here- it's very easy to follow and you care about what happens to them.

    Since you asked- the only thing that really jumped out at me was the use of 'rains' three times in the opening paragraph. The word is used at least seven (I think I counted seven...) times in the scene overall but three times that closely you really notice it. Of course if that is part of the voice you're trying to portray for the character then I might just not be getting it because I haven't read the whole thing and sometimes these nuances get lost in small snippets (happens with my stuff I know).

    Aside from that I found the language to be lovely, lyrical, and it held my attention. Usually, for fantasy, that's a very difficult thing. Great work!


  2. ugh sorry by 'the word' I meant 'rains' or 'rain'. So past my bedtime here in the EST! Sorry for any confusion.


  3. Thank you, bru! That's just the kind of thing I need to hear, as these errors can be hard to spot for the writer.

  4. Hi Ted,

    Loved this piece, and as far as Fantasy goes it's not my genre so I tend to plead ignorance on such matters as unusual characters and places. That said, my reading tastes are eclectic at best and "some stories" outside of the norm of lure draw my eye and I will investigate further: I would read more of this if it was there in front of me!

    I hate making suggestions, but:
    Paragraph 4
    Line 3 end of dialogue follow-up: . . . When Geldreth complained. When Geldreth gave.

    The second sentence grates after first in repeat word usage.

    Vital in respect of context, I know, but why not alter to say . . .

    Geldreth was prone to half-hearted effort, the result sharp crack to ribs from Gorm's stave along with curse or worse: lecture.

    Words to that effect say, because you're talking past tense here so scope to rearrange name placement.

    Just a thought, and running like hell for cover! ;)

  5. Ted, Hey there, I'm only reading this time around, but I love your descriptions. You wanted some feedback so here's what I found for you:

    "though the strength and experience of the dwarf always TOLD in the long run." should it be "showed" instead of told, it makes more sense that way?

    "Geldrath felt his throat BEGINNING to hurt and his nose run." the caps word seems to passive. alot of your sentences are firm in the fact that "it happened" but this sentence could be tightened if you take out what is passive and rewrite it more committed. ex:" His nose ran, his throat stung..." just an idea to go with.

    My favorite line: "and Geldrath was glad since he’d never liked the tiny red moon."

  6. I really enjoyed reading your depictions of rain. So far this seems like a great story!

    As for any changes, I agree with what's been suggested already. :]

    Keep on writing!

  7. I've got a head cold interfering with me tonight; so this may not sound right.

    I like how you used the weather in this scene to build the culture as well as the surroundings. You did well with the third person POV. Its emotive, give a strong sense of who Geldrath is and how he thinks.

    But in the paragraph that begins "They appeared.." I think you could pull back a little into omni while Geldrath is describing the approach, and the possible places a force that size could have come from. Make it less personal to Geldrath himself, and give the reader a wider view of the world. And break up the narrative into at least two paragraphs.

    The description of the soldiers, the lateness of the hour, and all the possible places or Nobles they could come from feels like an import aspect of your world building. If I were critiquing the novel, I'd probably want more detail in this scene rather than less.

    However, depending on how far this scene is into the work, you may have already developed the boundaries of the world, and Geldrath's place in the heirarcy.

    The other thing that throws me off is the use of past tense, especially while he is talking about the nightly lessons by Gorm. The sequence is written as a flashback, but maybe if you break it up - the narrative and dialogue - and focus on only one lesson, I think you could still convey what the nightly routine is. Perhaps using his developing illness as well as the damp air in the explanation for his off night.

    Essentially though, you met your plot goal of hinting at military manuevers and setting up his illness. The weather enhances the scene. I don't think it'd be as effective without the rumblings of rain.

    As I mentioned earlier; I'm a bit off my game myself tonight, so this may not have come out like I hoped. My apologies if its too blunt or rude.


  8. Hi Ted. Loved the scene, and I think the rain helps set it nicely. Nothing like cold, wet travels as a backdrop to impending illness and military maneuvering.

    I do have a couple of small comments (if you want them; if not, please ignore). In paragraph 3, you can end the first sentence with "flooded". Too much water is a given if the fields are flooding.

    In para. 5, "Geldrath had risen out of the mud, SHAKEN the water out of his eyes..." This maintains the tense.

    Looking forward to reading more in the Rainy Day blogfest.

  9. You are awesome! I have reread these chapters so many times, yet you have found things that seem obvious once you point them out!

  10. Hey Ted, very enjoyable for someone who isn't into fantasy that much. Good descriptions of rain. Youve had some great critique. Looking forward to reading more from you..:)

  11. This reminds me a lot of Terry Brooks. You have really hit the nail on the head as far as voice and tone. I'm quite impressed!

    I felt like I was right there in the mud with him. One of the reasons I am a writer and not a soldier. Along with my complete lack of co-ordination. ;o)

  12. great snippet! i love the world you're creating (i sent you some crit via e-mail)

  13. Very good. I wouldn't say so if it wasn't. I use weather in my books. Really helps the setting and the mood. Its not enough to say its raining, but how does the character feel about being slapped in the face with freezing rain.

    Stephen Tremp

  14. ted,

    wow! very exciting!

    my suggestions:

    "Sleep came slowly under these miserable conditions, and to make matters worse Geldrath felt his throat beginning to hurt and his nose run. That’s just what I need--bruised ribs, no sleep, soaked clothing, and then a sickness to boot!" --- awkward term "his nose run" and "a sickness" could be just "sickness" or a synonym

    "He lay back in the blankets, cold, wet, and sick, but happy that the rain had stopped at last. A distant yet loud crash of thunder shook the wagon, and the mules cried out. He fell asleep to the rumbling snores of Barmin and Valgorn." --- to me, it's counter-intuitive that one second there's thunder and the mules cry out, and the next the hero falls asleep... perhaps a slower transition to sleep?

    enjoy! --- gary

  15. I'm keeping track of all suggestions so I can go through the chapter and tweak it.