Thoughts on scars

(I drafted this before the appendicitis, and it was funnier then. But I’m posting it anyway.)

When I was at this stage of recovery from the first leg surgery, I was still wearing a pressure stocking most of the time, so it didn’t occur to me to examine the scars in any meaningful way. This time, I’m paying more attention to how they are fading, and I’m intrigued to notice that all three are comprised of a reddish-brown center-line, flanked by two whitish scar-tissue streaks. Eventually, all three will be entirely whitish scar-tissue, but not yet.

This is intriguing to me because a million and a half years ago, when I was in college, I played a LARP character who had a scar on her face. Because I had no money, I created this scar in the cheapest possible way – a line of dark red lipliner pencil flanked by two lines of white lipliner pencil, smudged carefully. Lipliner pencils were 99 cents apiece at the local drugstore, you see – which was within walking distance, which also was important, because I also didn’t have a car. It was for a college LARP; authenticity was not the foremost consideration on my mind.

But it turns out I got it right.

That LARP character was based on one of the female protagonists for my first novel, even then in its embryonic stages. In my twenties I wrote more of it and its sequel, and someday I’m going to go back to it and figure out what I can salvage. The plot is as trite as you would expect a first effort to be – but everyone who’s read it says with this tone of surprise that they can’t believe how much they care about the characters… Anyway, the aforementioned female protagonist, a dancer and swordswoman, suffers a severe and lifechanging injury as part of the book one plot. Book two deals in part with her slow, frustrating, incomplete recovery.

I wrote most of this between 1999 and 2009. In 2014, I broke my leg very badly, leading to a slow, frustrating, and not yet complete recovery.

Turns out I got that right too. I can tell you now about physical therapy, about relapses, about the terror of the word “permanent” when said by a medical professional, about the utter insanity of twelve weeks of bedrest, about rage. I can tell you about choosing grocery stores based on their size – how many steps to get everything on the list? – and about planning a day’s or a week’s activities based how much standing is involved. (“I’d better take a cab tonight, even though my destination isn’t far, because I have to go shopping tomorrow.”) I can tell you about having to ask people to slow down when they’re walking with you. And then having to ask them again, because they’re excited about what they’re telling you and they’re used to your old quick pace and they’ve forgotten. And then having to grit your teeth and say it a third goddamned time. I can tell you about the heart-pounding panic of slipping on ice or uneven ground and landing on the bad leg – it’s not even the pain, the pain settles into an ache pretty quickly, but the adrenaline stays with you. I can tell you about the crazy joy of recovering one lost skill at a time. It’s not that you’re  enjoying scrubbing a bathtub exactly, but the ability to crouch without pain is something to be celebrated. I can tell you about the bargains you make with yourself and the universe – it’s okay if I can’t have this thing back, as long as I can manage this other thing someday… The fictional character in question was a dancer before her injury, a skill lost to her permanently; me, I still don’t know if bellydancing is something I’ll get back. It’s okay if I don’t, since it was not central to my conception of myself as it was for her. But the parallel is…creepily congruent.

I got it right. I wrote it right, before I’d experienced it, relying only on secondary sources, and verified it through my own senses after the fact. Twice. With essentially the same character.

This tells me three things:

  1. 1) My instincts are quite good.
  2. 2) My research-fu is even better.
  3. 3) I should be really seriously careful what hardships I inflict upon this character or any future iterations of her. As they seem to rebound upon me, and all.

Fortunately for me (and for her), I’m a fan of happy endings, and I’ve always been working toward one for her. She winds up with the love of her life and they live happily, despite the chaos of the world outside and the need to deal with what it throws at them. She figures out her personal life at a later age than most protagonists of such stories – in her mid-forties, in fact, so I’ve stolen a march on her there. Her happily-ever-after is comprised of work she enjoys, the use of skills she once didn’t know she possessed, pleasant travel to interesting places, good friends, and no children. Mine too.

Maybe I’ll refrain from inflicting that second war on her. Just, you know. Just in case.

(The appendicitis? Links to absolutely nothing I’ve ever written for her. That one’s really mine, apparently.)

Seeking logistical advice (for a Timebound scene)

Hey, Internet, I need some logistical assistance with this scene. Got a minute?

The best access to the place you need to sneak 9 people into is a 75-foot suspension bridge over a gorge, patrolled by two guards, with a third sitting on an alarm system at the far end. Your orders are to “kill the guards as quietly as possible and get inside.” Of your 9-member team, 4 are the specialists who need to get inside, and therefore should preferably not be involved in a fight. The other 5 are cover.

(These constraints are historical and I did not make them up – not even the gorge – FWIW.)

A) What are some strategies / tactics the 9-person team might employ to get this done?

B) What are some best practices the guards should be employing to minimize the chances of people like this 9-person team succeeding in getting past them, in this way or in any other way?

It’s nighttime; the visibility can be as good or bad as desired. It’s winter in an exceedingly cold climate, and the guards are wearing hoods optimized for warmth that somewhat compromise their field of vision. Basic “throw a rock to distract the guards” tactics don’t fit the feel of the scene, since everyone involved is a professional soldier.

Timekeeper is now available for purchase!

See the Stillpoint website for more details!

Coming soon…

On June 18th – the 202nd anniversary of Waterloo – the story continues.


Timekeeper Cover Art!

Click through to the Stillpoint site to see the art and an awesome video presenting it!

In Memory of Elizabeth Barton, March 10 1798 – April 20 1534

Last week, I was speaking at the East Coast Game Conference, my mind full of live action and augmented reality game design, and so I missed the chance to post on April 20, in honor of one of Henry VIII’s lesser-known victims: Elizabeth Barton, the Holy Maid of Kent.

Yeah. Elizabeth Barton. Of Kent.

She claimed to be born in 1506, but little is known of her early life. Her fame began in her nineteenth year, when, working as a servant in Thomas Cobb’s household, she fell seriously ill on Easter Sunday of 1525, and began to speak in rhyming prophecies. An inquiry was held, presided over by Archbishop William Warham, and the inquisitors determined her trances and visions to be genuine, and her theology to be sound. Elizabeth became a Benedictine nun at St. Sepulcre’s in Canterbury, and thereafter Sister Elizabeth rubbed shoulders with some of the most influential men of the day, including Thomas Wosley, Thomas More, and Thomas Cramner, the latter of who said she spoke “of many high and godly things, telling also wondrously, by the power of the Holy Ghost as it was thought, things done and said in other places, whereas neither she was herself, nor yet heard no report thereof.”

I wonder how Elizabeth Barton could have possibly known what was being said and done in other places, or what would come true in future days.

At first Sister Elizabeth confined her prophetic warnings to “rebukes of sin and vice” and to criticism of the growing Lutheran movement. But when Henry declared his intention to have his marriage to Katherine of Aragon annulled in order to marry Anne Boleyn, Sister Elizabeth waded into political matters. She spoke openly against the King’s proposed annulment, gathered around her a group of important supporters, and went so far as to “force herself into the King’s presence” and warn him to his face that if he divorced Katherine and married Anne, he would no longer be king of the realm, would reign a mere seven months after his second marriage, and would die a villain’s death.

(The seven months thing didn’t come true, obviously. Elizabeth must have been from an alternate timeline.)

Unsurprisingly, her prophetic career ended badly. She and her supporters were arrested on charges of treason, Elizabeth confessed to being “a poor wench without learning” who had invented all her visions, and she and all her supporters except Thomas More were sentenced to death. Elizabeth Barton’s head was struck off, parboiled, and impaled upon a pole of London Bridge–the only woman in British history accorded such an honor.

So let’s review–a “prophetess” whose career started at the age of nineteen, who grew powerful enough to speak on equal terms with the King’s foremost advisors, who was brave and outspoken enough to threaten the King to his face, and who died the death of a traitor, a heroine, or a saint, depending on your point of view. And who was named Elizabeth Barton. Of Kent. Sound like anyone we know?

As to whether this part of her story will be teased in Timekeeper, or fully explored in Timebound…well, like many other things, that would be telling. You’ll just have to wait for June to find out.

Reposing woman with three men, only one of whom is looking at her.

image from Volume 3 of David Hume’s History of England