The Ideals of Leadership

In Living a Life that Matters, Rabbi Harold Kushner quotes James Fallows:

“What makes an effective leather, whether in politics or business? What characterizes the man or woman whom others are eager to follow? …[A] sense of wholeness, the feeling that the person is all of one piece, that there is a consistency to him, that he will be the same person tomorrow that he is today and will apply the same value system to one question that he does to all questions.”

When I read this, my mind immediately went to some of my characters. Anselm and Joshua are both natural leaders that people trust with their lives—despite the fact that they are different in many respects. Anselm is an introvert—in fact, he’s famous for the length of time he spent living without the contact of other vampires—but Joshua is quite the extrovert; he’s famous for his charm and people skills.

Anselm wonders why his friends keep turning to him to be their leader, and why they follow him so unquestioningly, and Joshua tells him that it’s because he isn’t attempting to be a leader. Joshua feels that the people who make the best leaders are humble men who have leadership thrust upon them.

But while that answer is a good one, it’s not a universal one. It doesn’t apply to Joshua, who did pursue leadership and who likes his position as leader (so well, in fact, he’s the longest-serving Erujtah in history).

But Fallows’ answer applies to both men quite well. Anselm states in the first book that he “always does what’s right, regardless of the cost.” He holds to that principal so strongly, even Micah refers to it as “his personal motto.” No one questions Anselm’s integrity or values, because they’re the same as they’ve always been. He is a man who has a strong sense of right and wrong—even as he admits that his sense of right and wrong doesn’t necessarily align with everyone else’s.

“I can see that some people are worthy of life, and some are not. God forgive me, but this isn’t the first time I’ve separated the chaff from the wheat. I like to think of myself as a good person—of doing good things—but I am not a good person the way you are. Not even close.”

Joshua makes this comment about him:

“Anselm, God love him, is sometimes a bit… I’m not sure if ‘formal’ or ‘repressive’ is the right word. I trust him beyond a shadow of a doubt to do what’s right, but sometimes people need to do the wrong thing for the right reasons, and he won’t.”

Joshua’s sense of right and wrong is a bit different than Anselm’s, but is completely predictable and reliable. When Kalyn asks him if he thinks it’s immoral to manipulate humans (specifically politicians and diplomats) for the benefit of all Canichmehah, he responds:

“[L]et’s say it’s a moral gray area. I would do it if I had to, for the benefit of others, but generally I prefer to not take by force what I can get with charm.”

And that pretty much sums up Joshua. While he tries to stay within the bounds of ethics, he does believe in the greater good equation. And he’s famous for taking a stand for what he believes is right, even if it requires a fight or might cause him to lose his position.

The Convening in 1939 was one of the most continuous ever recorded. While everyone was in agreement that every effort should be made to rescue Orunameh from the advancing Nazis (and, in the case of partitioned Poland, from the Russians), there was bitter disagreement on the issue of evacuating [humans who were not Yaechahre]. Many were afraid if the Council used its influence to obtain too many documents, or forged too many, our government contacts would shut down all requests, and some of our people might not have the means to escape. “Orunameh first” became the unofficial motto of many at that Convening.

Master Joshua and a number of other people, however, advocated that no person seeking our help should be turned away.

Immediately following the Convening, Master Joshua contacted Erujah throughout Europe and told them if they wished to help any non-Orunameh escape, they could Accept them as Yaechahre, and the Council would guarantee their safe escape. While this was perfectly legal—an Eruj may Accept any person he or she so chooses—there was an immediate uproar from both the dissenting portion of the Council and from the Yaechahre council.

Master Joshua is famously remembered for replying to an anonymous newspaper editorial (rumored to have been submitted by one of the Council members) which accused him of overstepping his authority. “Kiss my ass. If you don’t like it, vote me out. I will not rescind [my instructions].”

It was not until after the War that Joshua admitted he had secretly been feeding [Canichmehah escorting Jews out of Europe] legal papers, which he himself forged, in order to facilitate the escape of Jews from Europe. He denies knowing how many Jews he helped escape by providing papers, but estimates are between 500 and 1,000, with most historians favoring the higher number.

This was certainly not the only time in Joshua’s reign as Erujtah that he flaunted the will of other members of the Council in order to do what was right.

When one member of the Low Council insults Anselm, Joshua admonishes him in front of everyone. They get into a heated argument and the other man storms out. Joshua then calls for a vote of no-confidence to remove the man from his seat on the Council.

“Are… are you serious?” one of the members of the Low Council asked.

“I am. I do not issue idle threats. Nasim has obligations to this Council, and one of those obligations is to be present when we are convened—especially at the yearly Convening.

“Furthermore, his actions before this assembly have been unconscionable. He publically and purposefully belittled Anselm—which none of us should do to one another, but we of the Council must hold ourselves to an even higher standard. We are the governing body of our people, and we represent everyone. Anselm himself said we were horrible people—and why shouldn’t he think that? Nasim degraded us all in his eyes. If we don’t have the respect of our people, we have nothing.”

Joshua’s motto might be summed up in his words to Kalyn:

Always defend the defenseless,” he told her quietly, “no matter who or what they are. …Or who you have to fight against.”

Micah stands in contrast to both Joshua and Anselm. While he’s intelligent and capable of acting in a mature, adult manner (when he chooses too), and while he is undeniably loyal to his loved ones—and is capable of loving to the depths of his soul—he is clearly not a leader.

What relegates Micah to being a permanent sidekick to Anselm? As an extrovert, you would expect Micah to be the leader. And yet, Micah always defers to Anselm’s judgment and follows his orders without question.

Anselm and Micah both would probably say that Micah is more impulsive and doesn’t plan ahead well. Anselm always sees the big picture—the entire chess match—whereas Micah tends to see only one or two moves ahead.

But, in actuality, Fallows’ description of what makes a good leader explains why Micah is not a good leader. He does not have a sense of wholeness.

“I’ve lived for over nine hundred years, and I’m still not the man my father was. If I live nine hundred more, I still don’t think I’ll catch up to him.”

Contrast this to Anselm, who feels that he’s not as good (morally) as Kalyn, but he accepts himself and what he does with a knowledge of self that Micah seems to lack.

“I hope you can understand I don’t enjoy killing people, and I don’t do it indiscriminately, but I’m not going to apologize for doing it when I have to.”

Both Anselm and Joshua have confidence in their actions—and a moral certainty—that Micah seems to lack.

Micah is also not a man who consistent. There is no one in the world who Micah loves more than Anselm, but even his normally unquestionable loyalty can become shaky in the face of his rage.

“You promised you’d help me,” Micah accused Anselm.

“I never gave you a timeline for when we’d finish this.”

“Fuck that,” Micah said, ripping off his seat belt and throwing the car door open.

“Micah ben Isaac,” Anselm said in a low, threatening voice, “don’t you dare.” Micah looked back at him, glaring. “Don’t you dare walk out on me,” Anselm repeated.

Kalyn held her breath—tears rolling down her face—as she watched the two of them stare each other down. Finally, after an eternity, Micah sighed and shut the car door again. Defeat was evident in his face.

“We have obligations that are more important than your revenge,” Anselm said. “And you know your father would agree with me.”

“Way to make me feel like shit,” Micah muttered miserably.

“You deserve it.” Anselm reached over and took him by the nape of the neck, pulling him close so their foreheads touched. “Don’t ever scare me like that again, naishomeh echahre,” he said, his voice half-threatening and half-pleading.

Micah didn’t look him in the eyes. “You know I wouldn’t have gotten half a mile down the road. I’m just being impatient… as usual.”

Micah’s confusion about who he is goes deeper than just the decision-making process. He questions his entire identity and is unable to answer what would seem to be an easy yes-or-no question.

“Do you think you’re not a Jew anymore?” Joshua asked.

“I… don’t know,” Micah said honestly. “What I was born and what I am now are not the same thing—on many levels.”

“If you’re not a Jew, then what are you?”

Micah shrugged. “I don’t know.”

But when Micah proposes the same question to Joshua:

“Why do you keep the law?” Micah asked Joshua. “What’s your rationale for it?”

“I’m a Jew; it’s what I’m supposed to do.”

“Why do you think you’re still a Jew?”

“Who told me I wasn’t?”

“Hasn’t anyone?” Micah asked with surprise. “A lot of the Yaechahre—here, especially—don’t like to think we’re Jews.”

“Yes, well until they figure out a way to change who my mother was, they have no case against me.”

Joshua knows who he is. And while he will admit that he might be wrong, he lives as if he’s right. Because, when you get right down to it, what else can you do? When it comes to finding the answers to questions of morality and what God thinks, you’re never going to get a definitive answer. So Anselm and Joshua decide what’s right, based on what their consciences tell them, and they go on with their lives. And people follow them because they look like they know where they’re going.

What does this all of have to do with anything? I have no idea. Although I feel vaguely pleased that basic psychoanalysis can be applied to my imaginary characters, with the result that they are shown to act like real people.

If you’re stuck trying to develop one of your characters, try doing this to them. Are they a leader or a follower, and if so, why? If you don’t know why, then start making up some back story to explain why they are the way they are.

Cainite Language

A friend expressed interest in how I made my vampire language, after my last post on the topic. In order to keep all my words organized so I can use them (also, Cainite words are formed from common roots, so I have to be able to find related words in order to maintain root consistency), I keep everything in an Excel table. Here is my dictionary, as of this date. (Note: all words subject to change; sometimes I go back and change a word because I decide I like a different root better, or I rethink the grammar a bit.)

Word Literal Translastion Plural Verb Form Verb Meaning
    ah i  
Food and Taste Senses
Om Food/Human Omah Omi To eat
Omeh Food of the Soul (blood) Omehah Omehi To bleed
Mu Taste Muah Mui To taste
Tigmu Bitter taste      
Ilamu Sweet taste      
Ohimu Sour taste      
Isha Salt Ishaah Ishai To salt
Ishamu Salty taste Ishamuah    
         
The Body
Meh Soul Mehah Mehi To live/to be
Omeh Food of the Soul (blood) (none) Omehi To bleed
Mehjima Soul’s Dwelling (heart) Mehjimaah    
Cho Flesh/skin (none)    
Omehnirinir Blood river (vein/artery) Omehnirlioah    
Shoshu Hand Shoshuah Shoshui To give (hand over)
Imumeh No soul (dead/death)   Imumehi To die
People and Relationships
Canichmeh Person descended from Cain (Cainite) Canichmehah    
Imuechmeh Not me (other; non-Canichmeh vampire) Imuechmehah    
Om Food/Human Omah Omi To eat
Omtu Human child (first year Yaechahre)      
Nichmeh Person of descent (descendant) Nichmehah    
Meh Soul/spirit/person/life Mehah Mehi To live
Echmeh Me/I      
Yameh You      
Nameh Man Namehah    
Namehom Human man      
Ashmeh Woman Ashmehah    
Ashmehom Human woman      
Rumeh It      
Yaechmeh We/Us      
Nashmeh They      
Orumeh All souls (God)      
Orunameh All men (everyone/people; Cainites and Yaechahre collectively, when capitalized) (none)    
Mehtu Child Mehtuah    
Namehtu Boy Namehtuah    
Ashmehtu Girl Ashmehtuah    
Yosh Parent Yoshah Yoshi To parent (to take care of)
Yoshomeh Parent by blood (sire; feminine and male prefixes are not used–this stays generic)      
Nayosh Father Nayoshah    
Ashyosh Mother Ashyoshah    
Omehechahre My blood (vampire child) Omecharheah    
Choechahre My flesh (biological child) Choechareah    
Nachoechahre Boy of my flesh (biological son)      
Ashchoechahre Girl of my flesh (biological daughter)      
Ish Sibling Ishah    
Naish Brother Naishah    
Naishcho Flesh brother (biological brother) Naishchoah    
Naishomeh Blood brother Naishomehah    
Ashish Sister Ashishah    
Ashishcho Flesh sister (biological sister) Ashishchoah    
Ashishomeh Blood sister Ashishomehah    
Eruj One (leader) (none) Eruji To lead
Useruj Fifteen (the Council) (none) (none) (none)
Erujmeh One soul (alone)      
Emotions
Icu Emotion      
Osheicu Sad      
Tralicu Happy      
Mehnir Soul’s water (tear) Mehnirah Mehniri To have tears (to cry)
Tral Smile      
Traltah Big smile (laugh) Traltahah Traltahi To make big smile (to laugh)
Traltahtu Little laugh (giggle)      
Oshe Frown      
Oshetu Little frown (pout)      
Im Pain Imah Imi to have pain (suffer)
Arumeh Two souls (love)   Arumehahi to love
         
Numbers
Ruj Number      
Imuruj Zero      
Eruj One      
Aruj Two      
Aeruj Three      
Oruj Four      
Uruj Five      
Ahruj Six      
Ehruj Seven      
Iruj Eight      
Yruj Nine      
Seruj Ten      
Eseruj Eleven      
Aseruj Twelve      
Dseruj Thirteen      
Oseruj Fourteen      
Useruj Fifteen      
Ahseruj Sixteen      
Ehseruj Seventeen      
Iseruj Eighteen      
Yseruj Nineteen      
Saruj Twenty      
Saeruj Thirty      
Soruj Forty      
Suruj Fifty      
Sahruj Sixty      
Sehruj Seventy      
Siruj Eighty      
Syruj Ninety      
Teruj One hundred      
Weather and Heavens
Li Sky/heaven      
Uch Light      
Liuch Heaven’s light (sun)      
Linir Water from heaven (rain)   Liniri To rain
         
Interrogatories and Answers
Mehg Who?      
Seg What?      
Drog Why?      
Shug When?      
Juag Where?      
Merig Do…?      
Ranag How…?      
Oreh Yes      
Imu No, not, nothing      
         
Time and Place
         
Shu Time/now      
Jua Place      
Rojua There      
Rajua Here      
         
Misc. Nouns
Nir Water Nirah Niri To water (to flow)
Nirinir River      
Jima House   Jimai To house
Jimatu Room (in a house)   Jiamatui To take a room (board)
Shoshua Gift/present Shoshuaah Shoshuai To present
Triu Speech/word Triuah Triui To speak
Ca Fire Caah Cai To burn
Cauch Firelight      
Se Thing   Sei To (be) a thing (verb to be)
Nich Descent (none) Nichi  To descend
         
         
Misc. Verbs
Meri To do      
Jahni To take      
         
         
         
Misc. Miscellanea
Oru All      
Imuo But/except      
Gin And      
Dod With   Dodi to join

I am limited on the width of my table here, so a few rows of conjugation are cut off. But they are all easy suffixes.

For the past tense, add a “t” to the end of the word.
For future tense, add an “at” to the end of the word.
The diminutive form (equivalent to -ito or -ita in Spanish) is “tu.” “Meh,” the word for “person” becomes “child” when it is “Mehtu.”
The magnification of a word is done by adding “tah” to the end. “Mehtah” specifically means an “adult.”

These are my basic rules of grammar/functionality:

Rules
Grammar: Subject (Object) + adjective + verb + adverb + interrogative
Instead of a ?, eh is used to indicate a question.
There are no double letters in words except when prefixes or suffixes are added
Only nouns can be made plural.
There is no equivalent of the articles “the” or “a/an” in Cainite.

New Pages

I’ve added a couple of new pages to the right-hand sidebar: Canichmeh kinship and Orunameh in WWII.

The first is–for me–a fairly short explanation of the three types of kinship among vampires. It explains why Anselm and Micah call each other brothers, even though they are not brothers by birth or by sire.

The second is a paper published by a Canichmeh that briefly recounts the actions of the Orunameh (Canichmeh and Yaechahre are collectively referred to as “Orunameh”) during WWII. This was another exercise in historical research for me, as I dug up dates and places and got an education on various resistance movements in Europe. While the entire thing is fiction, of course, the stories within it are very much based on or are an amalgamation of real events during WWII. For all my fictional heroes, there were real people who did the same thing.

As a footnote, in the listing of the deceased, James Stewart was Rose’s husband; Eva Matthews was her sister (and only sibling). She lost Eva less than a year before James died.

Anselm and Micah Meet

I have had this scene written for a while, and I open it occasionally and tweak on it. But I’m starting to notice that I’m really bad about tweaking something to death (I’m still tweaking on my first book, and I considered it finished a year ago!), so I’ve finally decided to bite the bullet and publicly post it.

This is the story of how Anselm and Micah meet one another in 1512. This is also the first year that Joshua is the Erujtah, and you’ll see he clearly sets the tone for how he rules. I’ve tried to make all the information as historically-accurate as possible, but Jerusalem was a run-down, backwater little city in the 16th century, so it’s hard to find information on what people were wearing, how they lived, etc. It took a lot of digging just to find out what language people spoke (Arabic was the most common first langauge; Farsi (Persian) was the language of the government and courts), and even that’s a bit of a guess, because Jerusalem changed hands so frequently, what was common practice in one part of the controlling empire wasn’t necessarily the way things were done in Jerusalem. But, any historical inaccuracies aside, here it is:

            Micah woke up bored. He knew it wasn’t right, but sometimes he disliked peace. Fighting for or against whoever was trying to take Jerusalem in any particular year was all that really made him feel alive. Peaceful years passed without notice. But the Convening would open after the Rosh Hashanah service that evening, and while the meeting itself was often boring, it was a different kind of boring, which almost made it interesting. Besides, there would be people in town he hadn’t seen since the last Convening—and maybe even some new people; socializing after meeting was always the best part.
            He decided to go out to the market to kill some time.
            The sun was still shrouded in the early morning haze, but it promised to blaze fiercely when it rose fully. It was still hot during the days, as if summer didn’t want to let go.
            He meandered slowly through the narrow rows of vendors, while people bustled around him. That was one thing about living forever: you never needed to be in a hurry. Today, tomorrow, a hundred years from now—what did it matter?
            He stopped to admire a large stand of fruit. He had always liked fruit, especially melons; they were so colorful and juicy—the opposite of most of the surrounding land. Micah bent down to inhale the scent. It was strong; they were perfectly ripe. Even though he had no hunger for one, a ripe melon was still a pleasant scent.
            “You want to buy one?” the merchant asked.
            Micah smiled and stood up. “You don’t have anything I want to buy.”
            The man’s face instantly darkened. “What do you know, you Jew?”
            Micah waved at him dismissively. The man returned the gesture more insultingly. Micah wandered off, chuckling inwardly. Arguing with merchants was part of the enjoyment of the market, and if you couldn’t argue over the price, you had to find something else to argue about.
            Micah was surprised to find someone selling books, and he was instantly drawn to the stall.
            “Hey, Jew, I have lots of books. Lots of books for you.”
            “I see that,” Micah said absentmindedly, as he looked over the piles.
            “I have many languages. What do you read?”
            “Arabic, Hebrew, and Aramaic. My Persian is only so-so. And I can read a little Greek.”
            “You read Frankish? Look at this,” he said, shoving a red leather book under Micah’s nose. “New.”
            Micah took the book from him and opened it. He recognized the Latin characters, but he couldn’t tell if the book was written in Latin or French or something else. Everything that wasn’t a Hebrew- or Arabic-style script got lumped into the category of “Frankish,” regardless of what language it actually was. Micah spoke passable French, so he tried sounding out the letters to see if any of the words sounded familiar.
            “Excusez-moi,” someone said behind him, tapping him gently on the shoulder.
            Micah turned around and was instantly surprised; the man behind him was Canichmeh. He didn’t know why he hadn’t noticed his scent sooner, especially as it was no one he recognized.
            He quickly glanced the man over. He was tall, and dressed in a foreign style, not unlike the Frankish pilgrims that came to the city in a steady trickle. He wore his yellow leggings quite tight, and his blue woolen shirt was fairly fitted—especially at the waist—then flared into a skirt that barely reached his upper thighs. It all looked rather uncomfortable and hot to Micah. It was also rather dirty and travel-worn, as if the man had just arrived in the city.
            Micah looked up and was startled by the man’s eyes, instantly thinking he must be blind. The next moment he banished the thought; no Canichmeh was blind. The man’s eyes had to naturally be a very light gray. His hair was black—darker than even Micah’s—and his skin was quite pale, even for a Canichmeh. Compared to everyone else around him, he almost looked translucent. He also looked very tired. 
            “You are… Canichmeh?” the man asked hesitantly in French.
            “Yes,” Micah replied, thinking it ought to be obvious by his scent. But maybe the man was being polite.
            “Is… is today Rosh Hashanah?”
            “It is tonight.”
            The man looked immensely relieved and muttered something to himself that Micah didn’t understand. Then he smiled a little. “I was différé in Venezia because of bad weather, and I lost trace of my days. I was afraid I was too late. I’ve been riding hard to get here on time.”
            Micah didn’t understand everything he said, but he didn’t have to know much; traveling was always a risky, uncertain business, and sailing the Mediterranean was even worse. If the man was only delayed due to bad weather, that was something to be thankful for; it wasn’t uncommon for entire shiploads of people to go down en route.
            “You are here on time,” Micah reassured him. “Our meeting is tonight.”
            “Where’s a good place to stay? Something honest and clean.”
            “Oh, no, you will stay with us.” Micah pointed back the way he had come. “Go to the end of this street. There is… water there,” he said, trying to indicate a cistern with his hands. The man nodded his understanding. “Turn left and go… there is a second street; go to that. The building is on the right. That is where the meeting is. The door is red.”
            The man nodded, then smiled a little. “Thank you.”
            “You’re welcome.” The man started to leave, but Micah caught his sleeve. “Hey, can you read this?” he asked, holding up the book.
            The man didn’t even look at what was printed in the book; he just shook his head sadly. “No.”
            “Ah, well,” Micah said, turning back to the book stand. “What’s this supposed to be about, anyways?” he asked the merchant.
            “I think it’s about Christianity. Some new heresy. I got a good deal from my Venetian seller; they were trying to get rid of them before the Church burned them.”
            Micah shook his head. He couldn’t imagine anyone burning books; even though there were many more available now, thanks to the new printing press, they were still too precious to waste.
            He glanced at the book again. “Heresy is always interesting… but I don’t think I know enough about Christianity to know what is and isn’t a heresy.”
            The man shrugged. “What’s to know? It’s not the true faith.”
            Micah thought that rather applied to more than just Christianity, but he didn’t dare say so; he rather liked having his head attached to his body.
            He put the book down. “What else do you have?”
            “I have some books in Greek. This is a new printing of Homer,” he said, offering a book in brown leather. “Are you familiar with the story of Troy?”

            The meeting room was nearly full when Micah and Isaac walked in. The tables were arranged in a horseshoe-shape, with the Council members sitting along one side of the tables at the head of the room. Below the horseshoe arrangement were some additional tables where the Yaechahre sat.
            The local Yaechahre always came to the Convening, and many people from the surrounding areas also came, but not many Yaechahre from outside the Holy Land came. Depending on their starting point, it could take up to six months to reach the Holy Land, and even with a Canichmeh escort, travel was still dangerous. But, nonetheless, some Yaechahre braved the hazards—namely to arrange marriages.
            Yaechahre groups were usually small, and it was a delicate matter to get outsiders married in—and sometimes, depending on the political or religious climate, impossible. Due to a lack of new blood, it only took a couple of generations before everyone in any given group was too interrelated to marry. Groups in neighboring cities cross-married, but that typically only lasted a few generations, then both groups were too interrelated to marry. That’s when someone would end up going to the Convening to find mates for the young people in their group.
            Micah glanced around, and noticed his friend, Azir, sitting at the first table, next to the high table. Micah made a beeline towards him.
            “You’re late,” Azir said with a smile. He gestured for Micah and Isaac to sit on the bench next to him.
            “They haven’t started yet, have they?” Micah asked.
            “No.”
            “Then we’re not late.”
            Azir laughed. Isaac leaned around Micah to look at him. “That we’re here a moment early is thanks to me, of course.”
            “Of course,” Azir agreed with a knowing smile.
            Joshua rose and greeted everyone, welcoming them to the Convening. Joshua had been the local Eruj for several centuries, but this was his first year as Erujtah. The previous Erujtah had announced his resignation at the previous year’s Convening and Joshua had been elected shortly thereafter. Micah liked Joshua quite well, and thought he would be a good Erujtah, but everyone else seemed to be reserving judgment. How he handled the Convening would be very telling.
            Joshua asked anyone who had not been to a Convening before to come forward and introduce himself. Micah noticed the light-eyed man he had encountered earlier tentatively came forward. He looked rested, and he had cleaned up and changed clothes, but it was clear from the unpatterned fabric and lack of embellishment he was not a rich man.
            Micah and the others in Jerusalem tended to wear the best clothing they were allowed, by law, to buy and wear. In fact, the long tunic Micah was wearing was his very best. It was a very dark blue and heavily embroidered in geometric patterns of gold, silver and red. They had all been accused, at one point or another, of dressing above their station—Micah was especially bad about wearing white, which was usually forbidden to Jews—but they were generally only harassed by new rulers; the ones who had been in the city for a while heard rumors of the ones who never aged, and they generally left them alone.
Even though the stranger wasn’t human, Micah could tell he was nervous and a little unsure of himself. He suddenly felt a pang of guilt that he hadn’t been more hospitable before; he should have escorted the man there himself instead of just giving him directions. It wasn’t like he was busy with some pressing matter. 
            “What is your name?” Joshua asked politely in Cainite, when the stranger remained silent.
            “Anselm,” he replied. He didn’t offer anything else.
            “And where are you from?” Joshua pressed.
            Anselm looked confused. “I….” He hesitated.
            “Where are you from?” Joshua repeated a little more slowly, carefully enunciating his words.
            The man shook his head.
            Joshua looked a little taken aback by Anselm’s refusal to answer the question, but apparently decided to let it go. “Who is your sire?” he asked, changing questions.
            “John. Father, he was. Dead.”
            The entire room was silent, staring. “What?” Nasim—a member of the Low Council—asked, looking at Anselm in confusion.
            “John, my sire and father he was. He was dead. Is dead,” Anselm corrected himself.
            “How old are you?” Nasim pressed, looking shocked.
            “O-old?”
            “How many years have you been one of us?”
            “Oh….” He looked flustered. “I… not know. Deux cent soixante,” he said, giving up and speaking in French.
            “You’re two hundred and sixty years old, and can’t speak Cainite?” Nasim asked with shocked amazement. He glanced at the others on the Council. “Can we even recognize him as an adult if he can’t speak?”
            “I speak,” Anselm said, looking embarrassed.
            “Our Yaechahre speak better,” Nasim replied derisively.
            Tears of shame and anger welled up in Anselm’s eyes; his hands clenched in fists. “Where I learn?” he accused in Cainite. “I know no one but my father. He is dead many years. I have no one. Where I learn?”
            “Did you learn anything at all,” Nasim needled, “or do you drink animal blood like a savage? Êtes-vous un sauvage?” he asked contemptuously.
            “Nasim,” Joshua snapped, glaring at him.
            Anselm stood a little taller, gave Nasim a look of utmost loathing, then turned on his heel and strode towards the door.
            Micah extracted himself from his bench, hurrying to catch up with Anselm; he and Joshua converged on him at the same time, just before he went out the door.
            “Don’t leave,” Joshua pleaded in French.
            “My father always wanted to come here,” Anselm replied; Micah could see him trying to blink away tears, “but he died before we could raise the money. When I had the money, I came for him. But I’m glad he’s not here; I’m glad he died before he could come here and be insulted. I see now why we lived alone; our people are horrible.”
            He turned to leave, but Micah and Joshua both grabbed for him. “Wait,” Micah said. “Nasim is….” He glanced at Joshua. “What’s a good word for him in Frankish?” he asked.
            “I’d say Nasim’s the lame offspring of a diseased donkey,” Joshua replied in French.
            Anselm blinked, then a smile tried to creep on his face.
            “I’m sorry you’ve been insulted,” Joshua added. “Nasim’s behavior is disgraceful; we treat guests—and our people—better than this.”
            “We are not like him,” Micah interjected.   
            “Come,” Joshua said. “There’s much more to our meeting than this, and many people better than Nasim here. Don’t judge us all on his actions. Come,” he said, gently tugging on Anselm’s sleeve.
            Anselm hesitated, looking unsure. Micah knew if he walked out, he would never come back. Franks were easily insulted—or, rather, once insulted, their hearts were hardened and that was that. They didn’t engage in angry name-calling and back and forth arguments until a compromise was hammered out; they just washed their hands of the matter. Or attacked. Warfare always seemed an appropriate course of action to them.
            “Micah,” Joshua said in a low, pleading voice.
            Micah took Anselm by the arm. “Come, sit with me. I can tell you everything. But do not laugh at my French; I do not speak well.”
            “You speak very well,” Anselm said sincerely. It made Micah feel even more ashamed of Nasim’s words.
            Finally Anselm let Micah drag him to his table. Azir and Isaac scooted over to make room for him.
            Joshua returned to the head table and turned to address the assembly. “We will be conducting our business….”
            “We haven’t finished with him,” Nasim interrupted, pointing to Anselm.
            “Why, is there some insult you’ve failed to deliver, Nasim?” Joshua said, looking at him witheringly.
            “He needs to recite his ancestry.”
            “For the love of God, Nasim! We haven’t required anyone do that in centuries.”
            “But it’s still law that they do.”
            “Why are you so bent on insulting and embarrassing this man?”
            “I’m not embarrassing him; he’s an embarrassment in and of himself.”
            Joshua frowned severely. “There’s only one embarrassment here, and it’s not Anselm.”
            Nasim’s eyes narrowed. “What are you implying?”
            “I think you know exactly what I’m implying.”
            “I’ll have you know I’ve been on this Council two hundred and thirty-one years. You haven’t been here a year.”
            Joshua drew himself up to his full height. “And I’ll have you know that I’m the Erujtah. I don’t care how long you’ve been here; I am master of this Council. Me, not you.”
            Nasim stood up angrily, and started to walk away.
            “Where are you going?” Joshua demanded.
            Nasim wheeled around. “I will not be insulted by an upstart like you, Y’hoshua Cohen.”
            “I’m an upstart?” Joshua replied, clearly affronted. “Your ancestors were tending goats in the middle of nowhere while my family was here, tending the altar of God. I fought the Romans for this city before your great-great-grandparents were even born, and I have the scars to prove it. I’ve held the group here together through war and persecution and plague for four hundred years. I’ve killed for our people and our Yaechahre, and I’ve nearly died for them as well. But I’m beneath you? I’d like to hear your list of credentials, if they’re so much more impressive than mine.”
            Nasim turned and stomped towards the door. He jerked it open, but paused when Joshua’s words rang out through the silent room. “This Council is still in session. If you walk out, I will bring a vote of no confidence against you.”
            Nasim glanced over his shoulder, glaring hatefully at Joshua, then he walked out, slamming the door shut behind him.
            The room was utterly still; every breath was held for a long moment. “How juvenile,” Naomi said, finally breaking the silence.
            Joshua glanced at her. “Me or him, my dear?” he asked, a hint of a smile on his lips.
            She chuckled. “Him. And maybe you, just a little.”
            Joshua returned to his seat. “There will only be one master of this Council, and until a two-thirds’ majority votes to remove me, that master is me.” He glanced at the others around him. “Does anyone want to raise a vote of no confidence against me?”
            There was only silence. “Very well,” Joshua pressed on, “then I would like to take this opportunity to raise a vote of no-confidence in Nasim.”
            There was a moment of stunned silence. “Are… are you serious?” one of the members of the Low Council asked.
            “I am. I do not issue idle threats. Nasim has obligations to this Council, and one of those obligations is to be present when we are convened—especially at the yearly Convening.
            “Furthermore, his actions before this assembly have been unconscionable. He publically and purposefully belittled Anselm—which none of us should do to one another, but we of the Council must hold ourselves to an even higher standard. We are the governing body of our people, and we represent everyone. Anselm himself said we were horrible people—and why shouldn’t he think that? Nasim degraded us all in his eyes. If we don’t have the respect of our people, we have nothing.”
            He picked up a round stone—a little larger than his hand—and banged on the table with it. “There is a vote before this Council. Each may cast his or her vote, and the reason behind it, if desired.”
            Every member voted in accordance with his or her rank—beginning with the members of the Low Council. Although some people voted to keep Nasim, none of them offered any words in his defense. Joshua was the last to vote. “I vote ‘no-confidence.’ That brings the vote to eight in favor of removing Nasim, six for him remaining, and one abstention. The motion carries,” he said,  pounding the table with his stone again. “The clan of Accad will replace Nasim according to law. Are there any here, now, who are of that clan?”
            Two men stood up. Joshua looked at them. “One of you needs to take Nasim’s place until someone can be elected to replace him.”
            One man bowed politely. “I will defer to my father,” he said, gesturing to the other man.
            Joshua gestured to him. “Come up and join the Council.” The man looked thunderstruck by the request, but dutifully joined the others at the high table, taking Nasim’s place.
            “Now that unpleasantness is over,” Joshua said, “maybe I can continue where I left off.” He stood up once again, and addressed the crowd. “We will be conducting our business….”
            Micah could hardly explain everything to Anselm in a hushed whisper without being overcome by a fit of giggles. Joshua was going to make a very good Erujtah.

YA Writing Smackdown

I stumbled across this article today: Writing Young Adult Fiction, which details, briefly, some of the upsides and downsides to writing YA. I had no idea that the turnaround for a sequel was 6 months. That’s a crazy amount of time to write a book. It took me a year to write my first book, and that doesn’t include several of the more minor edits and letting people read it and give me feedback. It makes me have a bit more sympathy for Stephanie Meyer’s fourth book, Breaking Dawn, which needed some heavy editing. I always write more than I need, and I pare down unnecessary dialogue, scenes and chapters in editing. If she only had 6 months or so to write and edit it, I can see how she didn’t have time to go back through it and cut out all the boring, useless crap.

Speaking of books, I’ll be honest: I’m tired of querying agents. Last count was 26 or 27 queried. I’ve read books that are worse than mine and I think, “If someone will publish this, surely I can get published.” So my new tactic is to start querying publishers directly. It usually takes them 6-12 months to respond, which is a drag, but let’s face it: I’ve been querying agents almost that long. If I had started out with querying publishers, I might have heard something by now.

But first I have to do one last, last edit. I printed another proof copy a month or so ago, and my husband recently read it with editing pen in hand. He had a number of suggestions (nay, commands) to make my gun usage more accurate. (In fact, we spent an hour or so one day going over it; I drew him a picture of the terrain, and he showed me ammo and got out his sniper rifle for me to examine.) So I need to edit that part and I need to read through one more time and make my own corrections. Then, once I make the changes on the computer, I’ll be ready to print and mail.

While I’m waiting to hear back from someone, I can be working on my second book. I’m more than halfway through the first writing. I should be ready to make my first proof copy in 6 months or less. That way, if a publisher comes back and says, “We’ll take it, and we want to make it YA, so give us that sequel in 6 months,” I’ll be ahead of the game on sequels and maybe I won’t put out something crappy.

It’s Starting to Come Together

Hey, look, I do know where my blog is, and how to post.

I have had several other projects going on that have kept me busy the past week. First, I finally motivated to doing some serious house cleaning, which has turned into rearranging the living room and buying more bookcases. I still have a lot of work to do to get everything the way I want it, but I’m liking the changes.

Are you stuck with your writing? Is your general creativity at a low ebb? Rearrange the room where you do most of your creative work. Even if you don’t add or subtract anything, stirring up your things seems to stir up ideas.

I have to say it’s working for me. Just a day after moving the living room around (not where I do my writing, but it’s the first room you see when you come into the house, and you can’t go anywhere in the house without passing through it, so it’s logistically important), I have come tantalizingly close to writing the end of my third book. I’ve had the epilogue written, so I knew, more or less, who survives and who dies, but I had no idea how any of my characters get to that point.

But yesterday a plot started forming in my head, and I began writing some of the scenes which will lead to the grand finale. I was crying and shooting characters in the back of the head in a mass suicide. It was fabulous! I don’t think I’ve written anything good unless I’ve made myself cry or laugh.

Need help motivating to clean your house up or rearrange? I recommend Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui by Karen Kingston. I read this book in college and it completely changed the way I look at stuff. When I need a kick in the pants, I re-read it, then go through my house, tossing stuff or giving it away.
The show Hoarders is also pretty motivating to cleaning up. I watched the first episode and immediately went out and swept off our front porch (something it’s needed since the fall!)

Courtroom Correspondent

I had to deliver some papers to my attorney while she was at court Tuesday morning. That wasn’t the first time I’ve been in the courthouse, but it’s the first time I fully appreciated what an interesting place it is (well, it is if you’re not there on charges).

Marshall County Courthouse, Lewisburg, TNThere is always a fairly sizeable audience when General Sessions is happening. Some of the people waiting in the audience are people waiting to answer their charges; the rest are friends and family members there for moral support. There is an unnatural quietness for such a full, busy room. You can almost feel the tension and nervousness.

At tables in the corners, and outside the courtroom in hallways and stairwells, attorneys sit or stand with their clients, heads close together, whispering explanations or discussing options.

A wooden rail, not quite waist-high, separates the audience from the court business. The judge sits high on the bench, keeping an eye on everything and everyone–like a hawk perched on an electric line, surveying a field.

In front of him lawyers mill around, whispering in each other’s ears, gesturing with their hands, trying to strike a deal for their clients. Along one side is what probably serves as a jury box for jury trials, but during General Sessions it contains half-a-dozen or more city and county cops and State Troopers, there to give testimony about what they saw when they stopped so-and-so, or when they responded to a domestic situation.

Sometimes people are called from the audience, and sometimes they appear through a door behind the bench, shackled and dressed in oversized, dingy green- or pink-striped uniforms. They rather resemble hospital scrubs, but of a heavy cotton; the green stripes, in particular, make them look as if they have a part in some Christmas play.

If you are ever stuck for something to write about, or if you feel that your characters are lifeless and lack emotion, go to your county’s courthouse and sit in the audience and observe. There are as many stories as there are people participating in the scene, and everyone’s emotions are quite acute.