|The Pleiades open star cluster (Wikipedia)|
Writing Eye of the Mother was hard work, getting the writer brain back into some sort of focus. I will go back and finish it some time, because I still feel it's a good story. But after some navel gazing, I decided to start afresh, go back to basics. I had a few ideas, but they needed to be fleshed out so I had at least a road map to where I wanted to go.
I bought the pdf (Holly Lisle's Create a Plot Clinic )some years ago - and I reckon it was one of the best investments I ever made. I've used it several times. It's chock full of practical ideas to make the muse come up with the goods. Soon I was scribbling notes (or as well as I can scribble on a keyboard). Then I just couldn't stop myself from starting to write. And it was fun. I was back in routine, using the last hour of the day to gaze at the setting sun and work out what was going to happen next, and answer those questions. Yes, but how do they find that out? What did her parents leave for her? Who else wants to know? etc etc
Anyway, at this point we have a professor of history with a little bit of OCD whose archaeologist parents have gone missing, a full-of-himself alphahole admiral, bubbling politics, and an open star cluster called the Maidens. A bit like the picture. It's another Ptorix Empire story.
And here's a little taste. Professor Olivia Jhutta is at an official reception to mark the visit of the Confederacy Fleet. She's been warned about womanizing Admiral Jackson Prentiss, but actually physically bumps into him at the function. He always has time for a good looking woman.
Jak accepted a drink and looked around him, evaluating the attendees. A few local military men, resplendent in their dress uniforms, dark blue pants and red jackets dripping with gold braid. Businessmen in black suits and colorful cummerbunds, many of them with trophy brides hanging off their arms. He circulated the room, smiling and chatting, the usual small talk when there's not much to do but be pleasant. A few women tried to catch his eye but he was in no mood to encourage adultery, and even less mood to be somebody's trophy for the night. Not unless something special turned up.
General Krenstein, commander of the local military, was in a corner, talking to a couple of Jak's senior officers. He'd better have a word with him, to show willing. As he moved through the crowd in that direction someone bumped into him. He gazed down into wide brown eyes flecked with gold.
"I'm so sorry," she murmured.
Tall, pale brown skin, dark hair hanging loose, a light blue dress that fitted her curves. Oh yes. Was she with someone? The man beside her registered on his implant. Chuk Lombardi, purveyor of trinkets and antiques. And the woman with him was…
"Not at all, Professor Jhutta. The room's crowded."
Her eyebrows arched, and then she smiled. "Recorded on your implant."
"It does make life easier." But no detail. Just a name and an occupation. God, these backward planets tried his patience.
She gestured at her companion. "Have you met Chuk?"
Jak inclined his head. "Mister Lombardi." The man was president of the independent trader's guild. Good luck with that in the current climate. Ormanov's machinations would have to worry Lombardi. But never mind, Jak's adjutant could find out about that, while he concentrated on the lovely lady in front of him.
"Um, will you be staying at Belledura for long, admiral?"
"Just a few days. And you?"
Her lips tightened. "A few months. I'm on leave from my university."
She was utterly delightful. Surely she wasn't married to this middle-aged bore who was glaring at him? "So you're not a local?"
He contacted his adjutant. "Mark, is the woman I'm talking to Lombardi's wife?"
"Good. Come and take him away."
"No. Well… I grew up here, but I work at Riewald University on Deloraine."
Mark arrived. "Excuse me, Mister Lombardi, if you have a minute, can you introduce me to a few of your members?"
Jak noted the eye contact between the man and the professor, almost as if she'd given him permission to leave. With a last sideways glare at Jak, Lombardi allowed himself to be diverted. Interesting. Back to the main game. "Riewald." He showed her he was impressed. He was. Riewald had a reputation for excellence. "What do you teach?"
"History. I specialize in Helicronia, but I also know a little about some of the older political systems that preceded the Confederacy."
"What can you tell me about Helicronia?"
She smiled and those golden flecks in her eyes lit up. "Oh, I could bore you for hours. First settlement by the faithful here on Belledura, establishment, expansion, the move to colonize other planets, the dynastic wars, rebellions, stagnation, decline." She chuckled. "I can see your eyes glazing over already. "Perhaps you can tell me about the Maidens?" She paused and her cheeks flushed. "I mean the star cluster."
Well, well. That was unexpected. Apart from the irritating rumblings on Belledura, the Maidens was why he was here. But she didn't need to know that. " Let me see… the cluster is about ten stellar units away, contains about a thousand stars, including many with planetary systems, and it's territory in dispute."
She cocked her head.
"The Ptorix also lay claim to the area."
"Ah. Why is that?"
"Because it sits between the borders of our established sovereignties. Neither of us has a settlement there, and neither of us will allow a settlement there."
"But you'll have heard the legends. About the Gh'ia."
Bless her heart. He couldn't help the chuckle. "Miss Jhutta, they're just stories to frighten children. We've found no trace of any space-faring giants anywhere, and neither have the Ptorix."
His aide spoke to him via his implant. "The Grand Plutarch is feeling a bit left out, sir."
"Yes, all right." Damn. His Eminence's timing was diabolical. But after all the opportunity to play 'mine's bigger than yours' with Ormanov was the main reason he'd agreed to attend.
"Professor, I would love to continue this discussion, but duty calls. Will you have dinner with me? Tomorrow evening?"
She was annoyed, those remarkable eyes narrowed. "Thank you. You're very kind, but no." She cocked an eyebrow. "I have b— other things to do. Goodnight."
She bolted. Grabbed… what was his name? Lombardi, by the arm and towed him out the door. Damn and blast. Fuck Ormanov. May he rot in the deepest pit of hell his confounded religion believed in. As he pasted on his official smile and walked toward the cleric, Jak contacted his adjutant. "Find out everything there is to know about the delightful Professor Jhutta. I want it by tomorrow morning."
"Yessir. It will be done." Did he detect a chuckle in Commander Bennett's reply?
There you go. All subject to change without notice, of course. Gotta go. I's got a story to write. Oh - and Holly's little book is worth every cent of $10. You'll use it over and over again.