|Posted on November 17, 2012 at 4:35 PM||comments (0)|
Well folks, there's been a long absence, and those of you who are not on my Facebook will be wondering why. The answer is that my non-fiction book, "The Witch's Eight Paths of Power," was accepted for publication by Weiser Books, and I dropped everything else to be sure I met my deadline, which was November 15. Now I'm going back to "Brothers in Arms," and I'm even doing National Novel Writing Month. I don't expect to finish but the discipline is good; indeed, it's what enabled me to learn the skills to apply myself to the writing of my soon-to-be-published book. You will be able to find it under the pen name "Lady Sable Aradia," by Fall of 2013.
|Posted on June 14, 2012 at 3:00 PM||comments (0)|
The summer months are very busy for me, and that gives me a lot less time to write my novels in, as much as I enjoy it! Between the last entry and this one, I presented workshops at one festival and my store went to another; my husband was in the hospital for elbow replacement surgery, had a bad reaction to the medication and took a month to recover; and I started making plans to travel around and teach more of the same workshops. I also submitted some book proposals for my "Eight Paths" book, and authors will tell you that these are long essays in and of themselves.
But that's not the only reason that there was a long delay on this chapter. The truth is that I struggled with it. I wanted to get on with the rest of the plot; to be frank, much of this is the preliminary stuff. It's necessary to the reader, and it's important, because without this information the rest of the novel won't make sense, but I've been living with this for years, so to regurgitate it, from a writer's perspective, was just a little bit dull initially. After plodding along at it in bits and pieces at the chiropractor's office, between appointments and sitting and waiting in my van to drop people off or pick them up, I finally realized what the problem was.
I was "telling, not showing." I was trying to rush things by explaining what was going on rather than describing it. I was narrating. This makes for a novel that reads like a textbook; it's dry and boring. Long sections of the novel "Les Miserables" by Victor Hugo are like this, where he embedded a really great story (the source of the famous Broadway musical) in pages and pages of political diatrabe. So I scrapped it.
Also, I was doing something which I call, with all due respect, the "Mercedes Lackey mistake." Mercedes Lackey is a popular fantasy author, and don't get me wrong; I am a "Misty" fan, particularly of her Valdemar books, the best of which, in my personal opinion, are "The Last Herald-Mage of Valdemar" trilogy; I love her deep protagonist, and I cry every time I read them. There is only one aspect of her writing that I struggle with, and that is that often she skips the action! Misty writes from the perspective that a story is something happening to someone you care about (the actual quote is "It's hard to hate anyone whose story you know." - Roslyn Bresnick-Perry.) I concur. If you must err, then do it on the side of characterization. As well as being a writer, I'm also a voracious reader, and I have to say, I think I can forgive an author any error except one; that of having their characters be boring, or of doing something out-of-character without explaining, or demonstrating, why they have done it. But sometimes, she is so much more focused on the emotional aspects of the story that action scenes that would seem to be integral to the story, and the formation of her characters' personalities, are skipped over. I really felt it in the tale of the weapons master Alberich, "Exile's Honor," and it seemed odd to me that we were not shown the transition from Vanyel the new herald, piecing his life back together from the ashes, and Vanyel "Demonsbane," which is where the second book started. I suppose I can see why; it would make a whole novel in and of itself I'm sure, and it was not the story that Misty wanted to tell.
But these are war novels as well as fantasy novels, and Shaundar is shaped by his experiences. I need to *show* you his transition from soul-wounded young war vet to hardened military assassin. Without this, none of the rest of the novel or even the saga will make sense, and you will not care about it as much.
There is one more significant error that I was making. I was trying far too hard to make Shaundar a "good guy." I want you to like him. *I* like him! So I was having him be far too concerned with the well-being of innocents, acting far too much like the "morally superior" brand of fantasy hero that is, quite frankly, self-righteous and static. Shaundar is a dynamic character, and how can I tell the tale of his redemption from hardened military assassin, if I don't let him become a hardened military assassin? The beauty of the Spelljammer® setting is that even the nominal "good guys" do stuff that is morally gray, like hard core science fiction. Why should Shaundar or Yathar be any different? Most people do stuff that we are not proud of, especially when we are in pain and acting out. So I let him be a little cruel.
With this renewed approach, I tackled the subject matter and found that once the suspense of the setup was finished, the rest of it pretty much wrote itself. Shaundar's moral doubts do manage to show through, even as he acts cruelly. And I think the end result of letting the action happen, and immersing myself in it, was the best action sequence that I believe I have personally written to date. Don't let me hype it too much for you; it's a purely technical glory I take in it. Just read it.
Now, technical details -
The "orcish surprises" are basically alchemically created C-4. They are activated by an electrical charge or detonator, which in our world is usually accomplished with some kind of fuse, but in a world of magic, lightning bolt spells work just fine.
The "gray pebbles" are based loosely on https://fscimage.fishersci.com/msds/36635.htm" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">phosphorus pentasulfide, but are essentially alchemical items, likely partially created with magic. And in real life, I wouldn't just cover them in wax to protect them, this stuff might explode if it comes in contact with mist; or if it is overheated.
"Alchemist's fire" is Greek fire. No one really knows how Greek fire, a napalm-like substance that actually would burn on or in water that was widely used in the ancient world, was made. But current theories say it may have contained naphtha, quicklime, sulphur, and niter or saltpeter. Naphtha is a solvent, which is what gave me the idea for the catalyst.
Combat style of our protagonists is based in Spetsnaz training and the cinematic trailers of the Assassin's Creed video games, just because this was how I visualized it. Gotta balance some epic fantasy with the gritty realism, right? Combat is nasty and brutal, and it should be, but our heroes still comport themselves heroically. As to the magical combat, I have no idea where I get that. I can't credit it to anyone, really; the Lord of the Rings combat sequence between Gandalf and Saruman is the closest thing I've ever seen to it that I can recall.
That's it! Enjoy your reading!
|Posted on April 18, 2012 at 11:20 PM||comments (0)|
Most of these chapters are concerned with recapping important events of the first book in the Toy Soldier Saga, "A Few Good Elves," while still advancing the plot, or establishing contrast between scro (orcish) and elven society and physiology, which culture-shocks our protagonist Shaundar quite badly.
The original concept for the Permafrost Project was based on the activities, and myths, surrounding MACVSOG in the Vietnam War. It's a whole new brand of covert warfare for the elves, enhanced by magic. Like the Navy SEALs, the training is brutal, so the possibilities when combined with high fantasy magic should be truly scary.
The hand-to-hand combat style taught to the Permafrost soldiers is based on the combat art taught to the Russian Spetsnaz, known as "Systema." Some of the training is based on their training as well. Watching clips of this style in action on YouTube makes you wince. These guys don't pull punches, even in practice. It was a logical style to teach to elves who were to infiltrate orcs, and may need to adapt to anything and not give their true origins away.
Essentially, the Permafrost Project is training soldiers for Special Operations. It's a very sophisticated concept of warfare for a fantasy world, but I think it suits the elves and their ancient civilization rather nicely. Some of the foundational units of modern day Special Ops go as far back as Ancient China and Rome, and they also had a significant role in the Napoleanic Wars, so it is perhaps not too far a stretch. The use of Special Operations units were integral to the Second World War as well, and I believe I have already drawn that parallel between WWII and UWII in previous blog-posts: so it fits.
My information about orcish religion comes from both Spelljammer® canon material, especially "Goblin's Return"® and "Heart of the Enemy,"® but some of it comes from Wikipedia and the Forgotten Realms® sourcebook "Faiths & Pantheons,"® which has the most detailed information about D&D® orc deities that I was able to find. (I have the 2nd Edition® book "Monster Mythology"® somewhere too, which had some interesting information as well, but I can't seem to find it right now, though I am sure it influences my perspective.)
Gender issues are also a theme of this book that will come up again and again (since orcs are aggressively patriarchial) and so I thought it might be an interesting twist to have sexual harassment on the other foot. Especially considering Shaundar's experiences in Raven Talon, what many people generally joke about as being a humorous situation is actually an attack, because a commanding officer in a position of authority pushes things too far. It's still not okay, regardless of Shaundar's gender. Being an elf, gender stereotypes don't really exist in the same way in his culture, which gives me a wonderful opportunity to put him in a position to appreciate the struggles of orcish women later.
That's all I have to say as far as that goes. I will apologize for the slower pace of this novel; festival season has begun at my shop, so that's keeping me busy, and I am also trying to finish my non-fiction book on Wiccan magick, "The Eight Paths of Power" and putting together classes and DVDs based on that material. But I'm barrelling on to Chapter Four, and now the plot thickens!
|Posted on March 5, 2012 at 4:50 PM||comments (0)|
I changed my Twitter settings and this post is an experiment to see if my intentions worked. I de-linked this blog from my Twitter account, and I linked the new author page I created on Facebook to my Twitter account instead; and I have my blog posting there through the NetworkedBlogs application. If I've done it right, those who follow me on Twitter will get one blog notification (sent by my author account) and my personal FB page will get two; one from Networked Blogs and one from Twitter. Let's see if it works!
I struggled over how to start this one. As those who read "A Few Good Elves" know, "Brothers in Arms" really just continues the story more or less where it left off, but now I am faced with that eternal author's dilemma; how much information do I recap from the previous book in order to create the balance between not boring the faithful series reader, and being somewhat understandable to the new reader who picked up the second book first?
It's about three or four months after the end of the first book. Shaundar is messed up with PTSD and confused about his life. Some people try to take their own lives; some join the French Foreign Legion. Shaundar has joined the Permafrost Project. The feel of the book has changed now. Shaundar is not an innocent anymore; he is a soldier, and he thinks and acts like one. His struggle with his PTSD is a theme you will see repeated throughout the book.
I really had to think about Permafrost. I created this world actually years ago for a home-brew D&D® campaign which you will see some elements of in these novels. But I didn't really give too much thought to the surface because nobody really spent a lot of time exploring it. Their characters resupplied, drank at the bar and left (though one such evening gathering of the crew will be in the next book because it was memorable.) I was inspired by pictures I found online by typing in "ice planet" in a Google search. I liked the one with two suns especially because the sphere does have two suns; though from the main planet of the sphere, one of them really looks like a large star, except that it's visible during the day as well as night. You can find them at the website in the "Photos for Book Two" section. I also thought about what kind of effect having two suns might have on the world itself.
The most fun I'm having so far is that unlike the Espruar, or Elvish, which has been carefully researched over many years from various Forgotten Realms® and D&D® sources (no Tolkien Elvish! NONE!) there is no published information on the Orcish language of the D&D® universe (though some do use the dark speech of Mordor).so I get to make it up as I go along. I hear it in my head as having a very tribal, guttural sound. I hope you like it!
As you can see it's a much shorter first chapter than in Book One; that's just where it needed to end. So Chapter Two should be coming soon; stay tuned!
|Posted on March 4, 2012 at 9:40 PM||comments (0)|
So I've added a couple of new things to the website for the Toy Soldier Saga. The first thing is a link directly in my sidebar to my Scribd profile, where you can now have a look at my documents or my collections. I've created a new collection for the Toy Soldier Saga, which will eventually include all four books.
I've also added a new toolbar to the bottom of the page. From there, you can navigate quickly to any of the four book pages, my Sable Aradia website and my YouTube channel, where I have a variety of videos related to the Toy Soldier Saga and where I will be publishing the audiobook versions. You can go directly to the new author's Fanpage I have created on Facebook, or to my Twitter account. There are also buttons that will enable you to instantly Like or Follow Me without having to go to either site. You can recommend the site to Google, Send the page you're on to your Facebook Timeline to share, Tweet about it to your Twitter account, share the page with a variety of social utilities, translate the page to a variety of languages and keep track of your own personal bookmarks directly on the site. Check it out!
Welcome to those of you who have joined my author fanpage! Thank you for supporting my work and I hope you enjoy it! If you do, share it with your friends. I will be keeping people updated there about all my writing projects, both fiction and non-fiction.
Thanks for your continuing support! Stay tuned for more! The audiobook of "A Few Good Elves" is in recording as we speak and writing has also begun on the second book in the series, "Brothers in Arms."
|Posted on March 1, 2012 at 12:05 AM||comments (0)|
So, now that I've finished "A Few Good Elves," what's next?
Well, I'm looking into creating a Kindle version, since I have been told mine does not do well on Kindle. I'm also considering a short printing run for myself and my friends just so that I have a paper copy for me.
I am planning on doing an audiobook version, which I will be posting on YouTube on my channel there, so stay tuned for that, if you prefer to listen rather than read!
I'm working on my non-fiction book on Witchcraft, "The Eight Paths of Power" (which may actually end up being two books as well, with the more advanced stuff separated from the less advanced stuff.)
And I'm also starting up Book Two, "Brothers in Arms." Here's the trailer: enjoy!
|Posted on February 23, 2012 at 3:25 AM||comments (0)|
This chapter is about post-traumatic stress disorder and the damage it can do.
PTSD is an anxiety disorder caused by exposure to traumatic events. It often affects war veterans, rape victims, and people who have been confined and imprisoned or tortured. Shaundar and Yathar, of course, fall under all four categories.
If you read the articles I've linked in this blog entry, you'll see many of the symptoms of PTSD manifesting in Shaundar and Yathar's behaviour, and ultimately, it tears them from their loved ones and their lives.
The suffering of Vietnam veterans is well-documented. For some reason, a lot of the experiences of WWII vets remain less well-known, but the discovery of "shellshock," which is actually a neurologically-based conversion disorder stemming from PTSD, where the body translates psychological symptoms into neurological ones, from WWI is well-known. It's called "shellshock" because initially, doctors believed it was physical neurological damage from being so close to repeated explosions in the trenches. Also less well-known is "Gulf War Syndrome," which is the subject of much controversy. Some claim it is another conversion disorder manifestation of PTSD, but others claim it is the result of chemical weapons exposure in the Gulf; and it may be some kind of combination of the two. Civil War veterans also suffered from an ailment called "Soldier's Heart" or "Da Costa's Syndrome," which might be like "shellshock;" a particular kind of conversion disorder.
Which brings up another good point. Diagnosis of PTSD is often difficult because sufferers do not co-operate. These folks have survived hell. They are amazingly tough people. So the idea that they are suffering from a psychological illness, for them, often suggests a weakness they are unwilling to accept. But in my personal observation, strength is NOT an asset in avoiding the development of PTSD. Emotional strength makes it *more likely* that someone will develop PTSD later on. Let me tell you why.
What the various wars of the 20th and 21st century have taught us is that freaking out in reaction to combat is actually pretty normal. Hence, something called acute stress disorder or combat stress reaction, which basically behaves exactly like PTSD, only it happens for less than a month after the stressful situation. Often, they go away, and if counselling and support is provided early, that is more likely. Only once symptoms have persisted for more than a month do they become classified as PTSD.
The only real treatment for PTSD is prevention. Cognitive therapy and counselling, relaxation and imaginal exposure help, but the key is to do it as early as possible. Waiting may mean that it is too late. And that's where strength is not an asset. Strong people stuff their fear and horror into some place deep in their bellies when shit hits the fan, so to speak, in order to deal with the problem at hand. Freaking out is a luxury they feel they can indulge in later. And so the "entry window" for dealing with the stress reaction before it becomes chronic passes. Then they find they're coming apart weeks, months, or even years after the event, and now it's post-traumatic stress disorder.
As you will read if you follow my links, serious trauma changes the way that the brain deals with stress biochemically. This means that there is a physiological component to an illness which is seen as primarily psychological. This may be one of the reasons why some of us can't just "get over it and get on with our lives."
Even today, with all of this understanding behind us from what may be the most war-torn period in human history, grounded in modern psychology, we don't understand PTSD, and there is no treament that is currently effective at doing anything more than managing symptoms. People with PTSD basically have to just hope it goes away, or gets better over time, and relapsing of symptoms is by no means uncommon. Medications only treat symptoms and there is no clear drug therapy course; each case must be managed individually.
There are events and circumstances in a person's background that can increase the risk of future PTSD, and these are often things that drive people to become soldiers in the first place, I think. Shaundar and Yathar have many of those too. These are classified as "childhood trauma, chronic adversity, and familial stressors." I think that you can see these things in their history, which is why all that was an integral part of the story. Interpersonal trauma makes future PTSD more likely than impersonal traumas as well.
This is what we know now. Now let's consider what a Renaissance/Napoleanic Wars fantasy culture might know about it.
People have known for centuries that often, soldiers are just never the same after a war, and people are never the same after horrible experiences, and that is about it. So Shaundar and Yathar's families can see that they are suffering, but they have no idea why, or how to help.
Often, especially among fellow soldiers, a person suffering from PTSD *is* perceived as weak, or deficient of character somehow. No one understands why they can't "just get over it and get on with their lives."
Shaundar and Yathar have experienced horrors that chill my blood to think about; disturbing shit that I had trouble writing about because of my natural empathy. Then they go home, and nobody understands; especially not the peaceful, hippy-like elves. There is no treatment for their suffering. And their situation is hampered by the fact that the most effective treatment for PTSD is still to *talk* about the traumatic event, process it, understand it, but they can't. Part of the reason is their own feelings of social isolation (one of the more common PTSD symptoms,) and part of that is increased by the gag order imposed on them by their Fleet Admiral.
I can assure you that eventually, our heroes, though they are never the same again, rise above their suffering. But it does not happen quickly, and (SPOILER) it will not happen in this novel.
In my own life, I know many people who have been diagnosed with PTSD. I have two friends who were raped, beaten and abused by their husbands who still suffer from panic attacks so severe that they cannot function. My husband, of course, displays many of the PTSD symptoms, including anxiety attacks, sleep disturbances, impulsiveness, depression and hypervigilance. My mom-in-law, in the middle of the horror of having her son nearly die and visiting him in the ICU, was attacked with a knife by a young schizophrenic man she was care-aiding for as a social worker, and now struggles daily just to get up the gumption to leave the house. She sleeps on the couch instead of her own bed because the job required her to sleep there and the attack began while she was sleeping. Now, every time we spend the night, she sleeps like the dead for thirteen to sixteen hours. When we're not there, she leaves the TV on loud and wakes up about a million times a night.
I have also been diagnosed with PTSD as a result of Erin's accident. I don't do much for it because there isn't much to do. My symptoms are generally manageable without medication, but I recognize a lot of Shaundar in myself. I suppose part of the reason I'm writing this novel is to process my own crap.
There are also positive effects of PTSD. I think I mentioned them before in a previous blog. Or, there can be, if you allow there to be. Faster response time, better problem-solving skills, a greater appreciation of the joy of the moment (which sometimes manifests itself as "impulsiveness" that can lead to things like spending the rent cheque, but can also lead to some pretty amazing life experiences by grasping opportunities when they arise,) less fear of things that used to bother you before, and a greater appreciation for life can all be gleaned from such experiences. But that takes work and time.
If you suffer from PTSD, I know of three things which have proven effective for me and for others. They are not conventional therapies. One is behavioural and cognitive therapies, including talk therapy. The second is eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. The third is emotional freedom technique. I also find simply being aware of one's personal symptoms, relaxation and Reiki help. There is also evidence that therapy with hallucinogens can be helpful, because they force you to process your personal subconscious baggage in an eyeblink as opposed to a long period of time. Check out the Harvard Psilocybin Project's work. Fascinating stuff!
My characters can be very real to me and I really care about Shaundar. I hope you have come to care for him as well. I also hope that I have made his thoughts and feelings transparent enough that you empathize with him now, and come to understand why it is that he does things in the way that he does them. I also hope that seeing things through his eyes may give you empathy for people in your life who may be similarily suffering; or that you have recognized enough of these symptoms in yourself to get help, or at the very least, support. It's much more common than you might think, and it's not a weakness of character. A book I once read about PTSD among Vietnam vets said that "PTSD is a perfectly natural response to an unnatural situation." I believe that.
|Posted on February 22, 2012 at 9:10 PM||comments (0)|
So I know a little something about orthopedic surgery now, and that's where I get all this stuff about bone spurs and physiotherapy on Shaundar's rebroken leg. And that's really almost all that I have to say about Development Notes this time. Most of this is concerned with Shaundar's homecoming, the first signs of his PTSD, and reuniting with his loved ones. i found myself having to go back to the beginning of the book to refresh my memory with the details of the Aerdrie's Pride, Garden, Nedethil, and so forth. But that scene at the end of the chapter . . . that's one of the mental images around which this novel grew, and I have been wanting to write it for months, so I am delighted that I finally did. I hope you like it as much as I do.
Barrelling on to Chapter 21, which will continue where this left off.
|Posted on February 17, 2012 at 7:20 PM||comments (0)|
Part Four is about coming home after their ordeal, and trying to readjust when everything has changed.
I have been sitting on this novel idea for many years, but until recently I don't think I could have successfully written it (I did start it many times; you can even find one of my early attempts on one of my older websites which I no longer use). I think I had to go through the past few years with my husband's accident first to understand.
Once you have been through such a horrible experience where you are forced to confront your own mortality, it changes things. It changes everything. In some ways you are haunted by the horror. And in some ways, you develop a new lease on life. You start living for the moment. You appreciate every second as if it were your last. And that's a wonderful thing. There is a fantastic article that I read in the process of my research called "Holocaust Survivors and Their Children: A Search for Positive Effects" that covers this rather well. There are some positive effects from having been confronted with death and horror. "Holocaust survivors may actually be more task-oriented, cope more actively, and express more favorable attitudes toward family, friends, and work (Leventhal & Ontell, 1989)." You'll see that in Shaundar and Yathar, I think. That new lease on life often leads to people feeling a driving need for sexual contact. (SPOILER) That's what leads Shaundar and Sylria into each other's arms; that need to reaffirm life in the face of death, and also the need to feel like people again after their depersonalization and abuse. This is part of what led to the baby boom after the Second World War; that need to rise from the ashes.
But there are negative effects too. PTSD manifests itself in many ways. You're going to see some of those in Shaundar and Yathar. In fact, it's already started. Feelings of alienation, depersonalization, nightmares, flashbacks, difficulty with interpersonal relationships, etc.
One thing that I have noticed personally that develops is a distinct lack of fear, and a lack of concern for things that used to bother me. This is both good and bad. For instance, because I don't worry about money as much, I do not panic when the financial situation is bad. But I'm also less concerned with what people who are not in my immediate circle of very close family and friends think of me, so I only answer the phone when I feel like it. This is not an advantage in business and I often get phone calls or text messages or the like from people complaining that I don't love them anymore. It's not true, it's just that I am less concerned about making sure that people who are not the family that I live with know that. Also, I find interpersonal relationships that are not so close to be challenging and therefore I only deal with them when I'm feeling up to it. This is especially true when I know that somebody wants something from me, or when I feel that I am being judged, somehow. I am not interested in impressing people anymore, so I just don't care if I have pissed you off by my silence. Sorry. It's not personal.
The other theme of this chapter is that healing takes time. After watching my husband struggle through his physio and rehab and healing and recovery for the past three years, I find it a pesonal piss-off in that in the movies, people are just suddenly better after experiences that are incredibly physically debilitating. It's especially annoying on shows like "House." People come out of the ICU to walk, talk, and act just like they did before. It doesn't work that way. Recovery is slow and brutal. I imagine even in a world of magical healing, where you can actually regain the abilities you had before, it still takes time, and physio, and rehab, and so forth. It's not much fun. It's frustrating too, especially when you were so hale and hearty and strong before.
Many of these experiences that I describe come from stories of holocaust survivors. Readjustment takes time. Stories of relearning what silverware is for, stories of being stared at because they were so thin, stories of people not wanting to hear about what happened to them; these are real stories from real people. Again I cite this article about a holocaust survivor. Also, when you've been starved, you can't just start eating normal food again right away. Your bowels and stomach can't handle it, and too much protein all at once will pack your kidneys in. It's called refeeding syndrome. That's why you have to carefully monitor what people who were starving eat. And just like other forms of physical damage, recovery takes time.
Incidentally, what I know about broken sternums and the effect thereof comes from when my mother-in-law, a wonderful woman whom I have come to love dearly, was in a car accident where she hit a fence post and her sternum was broken by the steering wheel. It makes lifting anything difficult because the pectoral muscles are attached to that bone, and so anything that involves those muscles pulls on it. It also takes a long time to heal, even without necrosis.
What I know about necrosis in bones comes from what happened to my husband's elbow after it healed badly from the car accident. That information also informs what happened to Shaundar's busted femur.
Hey, what the hell! They say "write what you know." You see what I mean, in that I probably couldn't have written this successfully before now?
This "recovery and reintegration" theme will continue to be central to this whole last part of my novel - and part of it is about Shaundar and Yathar's inability to cope with readjustment.
|Posted on February 11, 2012 at 10:55 PM||comments (0)|
This is going to be reasonably short, as far as my development notes go.
I have been reading Stephen King lately; rereading some old stories from his short story collections that I haven't read in years. Perhaps that's why this chapter was so grim. But it always was intended to be.
The initial concept for this chapter was inspired by the song "Numbers" by the Jolly Rogers, one of the sea shanties I have been listening to for atmosphere. You can listen to it by following the link to the album "X Marks the Spot" and clicking on the album cover. In it, a crew of 60 on a man-o-war nautical ship get into two combats with other ships, losing crew; then they lose their mainmast, are adrift with ruined food, and slowly starve. The first mate sets the deck on fire and only three survive the voyage. I'm pretty sure the Jolly Rogers wrote this one whole-hog, but for all I know it might be a traditional shanty; it's got the right sound but some of the lyrics are not consistant with a traditional shanty.
I would like to extend my thanks once again to Silverblade the Enchanter, whose amazing three dimensional Spelljammer® art has helped me immensely to visualize the ships of the novel in ways that the source material just can't match. Check out his excellent work on the Dragonfly ship at this link.
Other than that, I must acknowledge my debt in this chapter to the sphere design of "Bralspace" by Paul Westermeyer. I have used his layout of the planets and sphere almost entirely, though I do not hold to the same material precisely about culture, sociology and politics, as I have mentioned in the previous blog post.
Last thing I should mention is that Wikipedia has an amazing article on illithid from the D&D® campaign setting. They summarize a lot of information from sourcebooks that I do not own, and I found it exceptionally useful.