Game of Threads

THIS CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS FOR THE STORY UP TO THE END OF WILD CARD

A fan of the series, Gallandro, posted a list of questions as a comment underneath the recent Clippings post. This has been hugely useful to me to hear which threads a reader has at the ‘front of mind’.

I thought it would be better to make a separate post about the list to answer. It’s turned into a huge post, my apologies. But I’m delighted to field these questions and it keeps my mind straight on the world building!

Gallandro is in favor of some slower scenes which will allow me to wrap up (or move on) some of the many threads I have in the text. This is an important point. Once a thread is up and running, it usually needs a section of dialogue or exposition to move it forward. There’s nothing wrong with that, but my editor is not so keen on scenes that slow the story down unless they’re relevant to the arc of the novel where they occur. All of the threads which are unresolved are, by definition, arc threads rather than novel threads.

Now, many of these threads are significant to the plot of the series or the next book or two, so much of what I’m going to be saying is in the realm of ‘teaser’ rather than ‘spoiler’ for the books going forward.

1. Did Amber’s recent eukori mingling with her kin allow her to re-center on “good” feeding?

Yes, sort of, but that isn’t the end of the issue by a mile.

Even long established Panethus Athanate can slip, and it’s so easy to fall down that slope. Amber’s problem here is complex. What kind of Athanate infused her and how much influence will that have on how she turns out? She spent two years completely outside of Athanate supervision and fighting the infusion, will that have a positive or negative effect? She’s inadvertently fed on Jen’s fear and despair. (That wasn’t strictly a feeding, but close enough that a senior Adept, Ken Weaver, thought it was). Will that influence her? And Panethus Athanate behavior is all about control, while Were is all about instinct – the wolf enjoys being a predator. Will her Were side nudge her the wrong way?

And while the use of eukori heightens the sensations, and allows you to experience another’s emotions, it does not necessarily influence you positively. For instance, the worst of Basilikos use eukori to enjoy the fear and despair of their Blood slaves.

Lots more in Cool Hand.

2. Is Diana going to come back into the picture and help Amber soon?

Amber’s instinct (and the advice from Alice Emerson, Adept to the former Warders) is to trust only Diana to help with her finely balanced crusis and mental state. But Diana’s disappeared.

Cool Hand progresses this.

3. Will the Athanate nature continue to force Amber into relationships of both sexes or was it something particular to Jen that she focused on? I can’t imagine that it is easy to write in any more kin relationships but is this set in stone or will her changing nature continue to ask for more kin?

I could write a whole book on relationships and reasons!

The prevailing theory in Panethus is that an Athanate requires about three or four kin for a stable, healthy, long term relationship. That’s based on pure pragmatism. Kin benefit from the Athanate relationship with enormously improved health, but their bodies still need time to recover from providing Blood. Having four partners for an Athanate spreads the load. The theory also suggests that the kin group should be grown slowly, and the relationship between a Mentor and an Aspirant is designed partly to ensure this. The benefit of growing the kin group slowly comes when one of them eventually dies, the others are alive and able to provide support to their surviving kin and their Athanate.

However… Amber can barely get her head around Jen and Alex being kin. She’s certainly not looking for any more. (And yes, there are underlying reasons for the attractions and the speed of them, both Alex and Jen).

On the general point… gender is irrelevant to the process of providing Blood, and yet hugely relevant to Aspirants because of the pleasure involved. With everything else going on during crusis, Mentors do not want Aspirants stressing about how their sexuality might be affected by becoming Athanate. A good Mentor will not challenge an Aspirant’s sexuality during crusis. And yet, as Athanate develop, they begin to feel a sense of isolation and dislocation from human society and mores, and they begin to feel more identification with Athanate society, where gender is largely irrelevant. There’s no sense that Athanate are forced into relationships with both sexes, and no particular pattern to how they end up, other than older Athanate from Western societies are more likely to have kin-couples of mixed sex. This is partly because those couples would have looked more ordinary to the human society they lived in, and partly because new kin would usually have felt more comfortable in this configuration.

Now Amber is unusual in all sorts of ways. She’s short-circuited the main crusis process and as of the end of Wild Card she would be termed ‘anomalous late crusis’. Athanate theory is that Alex can’t provide Blood for Amber, so she really only has Jen when the Blood thirst hits (in Cool Hand). However, she’s also House Farrell, which nominally entitles her to the Blood of any kin within her House. She’s specifically asked Pia to create a Charter for the House which removes that entitlement, but…

Could she get enough emotional sustenance from Alex and Jen, and enough Blood from Jen and the rest of her House? We will have to wait and see…

4. Melissa’s death has yet to really be dealt with. How will it affect everyone? Will we ever know just how Dr. Nobel lured her out and did he imitate someone to frame them in any way? Will the pack need to make any recompense to Amber for her loss?

Melissa was part of House Farrell, though not anyone’s kin and not bitten. The whole House feels her loss. All witnesses to the way Noble lured her out of the house are dead, but we can assume he took the form of Morales. He would not have been able to be convincing up close, but enough to get her out onto the street.

Despite Amber’s adoption of Melissa, Altau would not formally have regarded Melissa as part of House Farrell. It hasn’t occurred to Amber to take it up with the pack. She doesn’t feel it’s explicitly their fault or responsibility. She’s actually more down on herself for not being quicker to solve the case or put in safeguards that would have prevented this.

5. Just what did Tullah’s parents do when Amber ran over there? Was her breakdown helpful/harmful to Hana (wolf spirit guide)? It seems Hana is her Adept spirit guide but then what are Tara and Speaks-to-Wolves?

It was Kaothos who acted, and what she did was actually render Amber unconscious. In the short term, this feels as beneficial as sleep. In the long term, what Amber’s missing out on is the mental activity of sleep. This is where the brain internalizes the events of the day, and also, for Athanate, the progression of becoming Athanate. More in Cool Hand.

Knocking Amber out doesn’t harm Hana, but the channeling of the immense amount of energy to blow up the factory at Longmont certainly did.

Tara and Speaks-to-Wolves are spirits. Or are they? Keep tuned.

6. Is Amber still in good standing with the Denver PD? Will Ops 4-10 be released from military service? How many Nagas remain after the Denver operation and did they all bug out for Matlal/Baliskos? Was Peterson captured and will the superior officer be identified? Was the 4-10 group able to save any documents and will they release these to the FBI or keep them themselves?

Morales is currently on Amber’s side. However, the Captain’s good standing is looking shakier as he seems unable to control the outbreaks of lethal ‘gang violence’ (Mykayla’s apartment, Longmont, Cherry Creek etc. etc.) that have erupted in the city…

The army has disbanded both the Ops 4 groups and the associated Obs team.

Ops 4-10 and Ops 4-16 (the Nagas) were both ‘short’ battalions, of about 500 people each. The majority of the Nagas survive and have left the country. There are warrants for the arrest of many of them and that will increase as the case unfolds.

Remember Noble left a dead-man’s switch of documents with a lawyer exposing what he knew of the Nagas. Between that and the documents that Colonel Laine provides, the operational levels of the Nagas will be exposed.

There is an arrest warrant for Petersen, but he was not captured. The ultimate head of the Nagas within the DoD has not been uncovered.

There are no legal proceedings against the former Ops 4-10 troops. More in Cool Hand.

7. The former Matlal vamps and toru are still in the city but were seen speaking to Gray? Will that be a problem and just how much longer will House Farrell have before she either needs to produce them or kill them?

Cool Hand. Yes, it’s a problem. 🙂

8. I don’t think Amber got back in contact with her Mom was she aware of the allegations of her being crazy?

In Cool Hand. At the end of Wild Card, Stacy was informed that Kath had Amber committed for her own good, but had no idea what that entailed.

9. Did Amber’s sister Kath successfully get her declared mentally incompetent and will that spell trouble for her business/life?

Yes and no. Nothing Kath managed to do has a lasting effect on Amber’s business. The declaration, without Noble’s presence to confirm it, will be thrown out by Jen’s lawyers. The committal to the ‘Max’, the maximum security mental hospital, was in a false name, so there’s nothing to concern us there.

The ongoing effect of Kath’s behavior on Amber’s life…wait and see.

10. Will Amber ever have time to meet with Pia and David to work on Athanate skills and review the House rules/duties?

Pia has been compiling a House Charter and a document which Amber thinks of as “How to be an Athanate 101”, and Amber’s been reading it when she can. She knows quite a lot, but it’s book knowledge, without context. When Pia writes something like “When meeting, Athanate from different associated Houses might as a courtesy offer the Blood of their kin”, you can imagine Amber has more questions.

Amber is going to continue to make mistakes and challenge rules in the whole paranormal community. I am getting some feedback from one beta reader that there’s got to be a limit to the perpetual mistakes, despite how convenient it is for writing purposes. 🙂

11. Now that Amber has become a wolf and felt the pack call is there anything else she needs to know about being a were?

Lots. She’s only grasped the core of how the Were and the Athanate work.

12. What happened with the charm bracelet that Tullah had given Amber back in the earlier books and is its design similarities to the necklace significant?

Amber still wears the bracelet, and as hinted, the working is sort of integrating with her senses. She’s more alert (when she’s not asleep on her feet) to threats. She doesn’t particularly trust the bracelet for the sort of reasons she’s mentioned in the text.

Adepts’ ‘workings’ and ‘the energy’ are topics which will be explored much more in Cool Hand.

There are similarities between the bracelet and the necklace (the one purported to have been used by Speaks-to-Wolves in rituals that helped the Were change). Both are more from the shamanic side of Adept capabilities, and visually they are both Arapaho bead jewelry. How they do what they do, and what they do… Cool Hand.

13. Did Olivia’s marque change and will that help her with her first shift at all, like the change in David’s marque allowed him better control of his Athanate side?

David received a massive infusion of Amber’s Blood which abruptly changed his marque curtailed his crusis. I’m not sure, in the short term, it could have been said to allow him better control. In the longer term, he is certainly a well-adjusted Athanate. David and Pia’s marque however, is Amber’s from before she started to become an Athanate-Were hybrid. None of them have any idea how David will react when he and Amber exchange Blood now, and his marque moves to match hers. Will he go through another sort of crusis and become a hybrid like Amber? Skylur and Diana are very old, established Athanate, and their marque will not change from exchanging Blood with Amber. Pia and Bian are a bit in between. They’ve both been Athanate for 100 years and have some control over their marque. Bian will be able to remain Altau should she chose to do so. Pia will want her marque to change to exactly match Amber, but does that mean she’ll become hybrid? Alex is a dominant Were, but will he become hybrid if Amber bites him?

Olivia hasn’t been bitten. Her marque is drifting toward Amber’s. Would it help her werewolf change if Amber bit her? Would she want that?

Cool Hand takes some of these forward. Some of them more than others.

14.The question of Dragon Spirit guides to the Chinese obviously caused a stir but will Skylur pursue questioning of Amber over this issue? The Altau Adepts seemed also interested in this development will they be an issue?

The Empire of Heaven (which includes China) are more than just a little stirred up by Amber’s question. Skylur would like to come and find out what’s going on. Unfortunately, Altau’s position is precarious. Skylur’s formally expanded his domain to include USA and Canada, and has implied obliquely that he will claim Mexico as well. He hasn’t got the numbers of Athanate to secure that size of territory. Skylur’s position as head of Panethus and the Assembly will be hugely damaged if Basilikos can prove he can’t hold his domain, so guess what they’re trying?

Skylur wants a conversation with the Empire of Heaven that will, at the least, create an association between Panethus and the Empire. It is urgent and important, but he has to hold his domain first. In the longer term, given how difficult it is to start any meaningful dialogue with the Empire, he is (sort of) delighted to have an opening topic that the Empire wants to talk to him about.

This is background in Cool Hand and the foreground in book 5, and probably 6 as well.

The Altau Adepts are Alice Emerson and her colleague, former Adepts to the Warders, who appeared first in Hidden Trump at the Assembly. Alice is certainly committed to her new House, Altau. She’s aware of how wrong things can go if the Kaothos situation is mishandled.

15. What happened to the Warder organization in the US? Did the show of the secret brain-washing have any other effects on the security issues? Is this an Athanate ability or something cooked up in conjunction with the Naga’s and similar to the experiments done on Amber.

The Warder organization was effectively disbanded by Skylur. Unfortunately, that puts the basis of the Assembly at risk…

Brainwashing and compulsions. Both the Athanate, who call it compulsion, and the DoD, who call it Neurological Programming, have separately researched these topics. Athanate capabilities vary from House to House, and Vega Martine (Matlal’s former Diakon) has an ability which is exceptional.

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About Mark Henwick

I was born in Africa and left out in the sun too often. An early interest in philosophy and psychology was adequately exorcised by tending bars. And while trying to enroll in a class to read Science Fiction full time, I ended up taking an engineering degree which splendidly qualified me to move into marketing. That in turn spawned a late onset career in creative writing. When not working, I get high by the slightly less conventional means of a small light aircraft. My first book, 'Sleight of Hand' is available on Amazon at http://amzn.to/Sa0D3n

12 responses to “Game of Threads”

  1. Libro Vore says :

    Thanks. The addiction is still strong, but this hit will keep the jitters down for a week or two.

  2. Jon.Gray says :

    I like it when loose threads are tied up, but I also like it when more are introduced. One reason is that it gives me something else to ponder while waiting,and waiting, and waiting for the next installment; the other reason is it means there has to be another book…and another, and another, and another…keep writing Mark because I can hardly wait.

  3. Mark Henwick says :

    Thanks Jon & Libro

    Cool Hand has gone well over the last couple of weeks. There are some new threads and some big knots in old threads. 🙂

    Wish I could just write the books at the speed I think the plots.

  4. K. S. Pollack says :

    I love the series and your blogs. They keep me wanting more. so far I’ve reread the series three times. I keep finding little things I missed before. How do I become one of your beta readers?
    Do you have a time table for publishing Cool Hand and or the story of Bian’s Tale?

    • Mark Henwick says :

      Thanks Ken.

      When I was writing SoH and HT, I kept telling myself that no-one would ever spot all the little ‘cookies’ I put in the text. I kicked myself for doing it, but it kept me amused. It is such a boost now to hear how many people are re-reading and picking them up.

      I have no formal procedure for beta readers. When I’m ready to have beta readers look at the first half of Cool Hand, which will be when I’m nearly done on the first draft of the whole book, I’ll make some structure and announce something on the blog.

      My first wave beta readers are my daughter and sister, who get a couple of chapters at a time and have to be prepared to have them trashed and re-issued. There are about a dozen others, who get quarters when they’re semi stable.

      Cool Hand and the short story for the anthology *have* to be out before Christmas.

      The fixes for Bian’s Tale are starting to itch in my head, so I’ll be straight back to that as soon as I can, but I’d have to predict March-April 2015.

  5. Richard says :

    I was just thinking about your comment on “cookies”, I’v noticed that some of these “cookies” are more subtle than others.

    such as a passing comment about a conversation that the reader was not privy to: Ambers references to conversations with Jen were she told her about her “trust and jump” moto. you must have a lot of notes referencing behind the scene actions; because, these comments don’t cause confusion and or contradictions with other parts of the story, that we are involved with in.

    • Mark Henwick says :

      I have “off-screen” sections. In them I provided a brief outline of things said or information learned that I would not describe in the text, but only reference in passing later, as in your example. It was indeed to keep my head straight.
      I also have beta readers who ask me about these things!

      There’s more of this as we go. Pia’s written information on the Athanate and the House Farrell charter for instance.

  6. gallandro83 says :

    Wow.

    Thanks for the detail on the questions. I’m glad that they might help a little. I’m amazed to hear you think the next book will be ready for Christmas.

    As a reader its always nice to hear that the author has answers (or at least hints) on the unresolved events going on in the stories. I tend to prefer “realism” in my stories and enjoy them being messy with the plots and sub-plots that you have in your books because anyone with a relationship in real life learns that multiple issues and events happen and you aren’t always aware of everything at all times. I also believe that just like in real life these issues are solved either through your own action or your inaction leads to someone else deciding the issue for you. This includes the larger actions that get taken by businesses and governments that can effect your life.

    The only answer that really surprised me was about the magical bracelet Mary had given to Amber. I am glad to know that the bracelet is still around I’m just surprised because you had stated that the signals were getting mixed and then it just doesn’t get mentioned all that much. In addition I would have assumed that it would have warned her at some point about Nobel and might have been helpful when he was drugging her to at least give a sensation that could help break the purely mental fog that she was feeling.

    Good luck with BT hope that your solutions have worked themselves out.

    • Mark Henwick says :

      Ah yes, not as clear about the bracelet as I could be. Amber took it off in Chapter 17 and did not wear it again in WC. The reason was that the bracelet worked off Amber’s assessment of threat, and her mental problems (strongbox etc) were setting it off when there was no genuine physical threat.
      So she never wore it when Noble was intending her harm.

  7. leveke says :

    Very interesting post im always glad to see authors interacting with their readers. While I normaly dont have a problem with slower scenes I like how you handle additional exposure of Ambers world. The fact that I had many of this questions myself why reading and to find the answers through reading between the lines make me care a lot more about the books then when everything would be stated in a simple conservation.
    I like if little questions the reader cant answer for themselves come up in a scene that moves the plot along and are answered 300 pages later with an offhand sentence. The world feels more real and less constructed the more detail come in while moving the plot around instead of beeing constructed. Overall I wouldnt sacrifice story pacing for slower scenes if you can handle the wrap up of threads like you did until now. For me the pacing was best in Hidden Trump and and suffered a little in Wild Card.

    • Mark Henwick says :

      Thank you Leveke.

      I work hard to make exposition feel natural in the flow of the book. One problem is that it sometimes takes much more than a sentence to explain the resolution of a thread, and in other cases, the resolution just causes more threads (or at least a greater complexity of the thread). You’ll see in Cool Hand that I answer one of the minor questions I’ve just hinted at above and BANG – whole new major thread.

      As long as I keep it all under control 🙂

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