About Ogres

by Quinn of Clan Five

I suppose you wonder what a sprite knows about ogres. A fair amount, I tell you.

After I left the Black Isle, which you maybe know as the Floating Isle, I was a hunted sprite. The Order of Wizards wanted me, preferably roasted. The King of the Franks wanted me, preferably in good shape so he could hang me properly. Clan Five wanted me, but that was on an unrelated matter.

The ogres, however, wanted me as a friend. They welcomed me into the Gray Cantons, sheltered me from assassins, hid me from spies, and gave me a home.

They even named a drink after me. More correctly, they named a measure after me. You can now go to Chur or Avental and order a quinn of mead and the bar beast will know exactly how much to pour—a flagon exactly my height. You will also be cheered mightily, which can be an unnerving experience if you’re not yourself an ogre. You’ve been warned.

Anyways, the chief thing to know about ogres is this: they are the most philosophical of peoples. True, they can be terrifyingly violent. An ogre is slower to anger, slower to calm. It’s one reason why they so often hire out as mercenaries, though there are other, more important reasons. Tough fighters, relentless foes, stupid, and absolutely trustworthy in all business matters. These are the pillars of the ogre stereotype held by everyone who has never met one.

Those of us who have worked with ogres, fought alongside (or against) them, or who have lived with them, we know differently. Of all the peoples in all the nations of Altearth there are none, not one, I’d rather call friend than an ogre.

Take this business about being a merciless enemy. That’s just not true at all. A mercenary ogre (just about the only kind outsiders encounter) is under a contract, a condotta, and such an agreement binds them more tightly than iron. Ogres do not violate contracts. Ever.

Now, among the Companies are plenty of stories about ogres who have done just that, but if you pay attention, and if you’re sitting down with mercenaries you’d best be paying attention, then you’ll know that the point of all such stories is to show how the ogre was able to do what needed to be done while never violating the letter of the contract. If ogres ever bothered to learn human law, they’d make damned fine attorneys. But no ogre will ever bother.

Which brings me to my second point: ogres are not stupid. They are slow—very slow—thinkers. They never speak unless they have something worthwhile to say, and they are keen judges of worth.

I am adamant on this point in part because I’m a sprite. We’re quick. Quick on our feet, quick in our thoughts, quick in speech. Humans are too slow for us, dwarves drive us batty, and as for elves … well, the less said the better. So when I first worked with an ogre tunneler in a Company, I thought I’d go crazy. I’d fly into a rage multiple times a day, flying around old Carmine Borromeo’s big ugly head while he just sat there, silent or sometimes with that infuriating ogre laugh “*huh huh huh*”–which took a full half minute to execute. Over time, because we had to work together, I slowed down enough to listen to him.

Oh yes, an ogre will talk, it turns out. In fact, get him into a discussion of the nominal reality of objects and you can pass a whole evening with one. Or, ask him his opinion as to the nature of the stars. But you’d better bring lunch! You see, an ogre will look at every question from every angle, and will bring in a few angles of his own. You’ll not likely get an answer out of him, but you’ll get a finely organized list of the alternatives.

Ogre philosophy goes deeper than this, though. They are deeply interested in the world and their relationship to it. And by “the world” I mean every plant, animal, stream, mountain, and bowl of ale. They make elves seem superficial and make dwarves sound silly. They can laugh (and an ogre’s laugh will startle you out of your small clothes, if you’ve never seen it), but even in their laughter they are appreciating the deeper currents of the joke. We sprites live in the moment. Not for us to worry about tomorrow. Ogres view the moment as no more than a leaf in a breeze. They’re interested in the wind.

Others can tell you about ogre history. They can fill you in about why ogres so often hire out to mercenary bands, why so many of them wind up being tunnelers, and the complexities of ogre social life. Look elsewhere to learn about ogre folk customs or their weird system of self-governing. There are plenty of books on the subjects.

I only wanted to tell you what I know, and especially what I know about John Golly. An ogre is steadfast, honorable, utterly fearless, and the best friend anyone could ever have.

Especially me, Quinn-the-Sprite.




I did not make my goal of getting A Child of Great Promise editor-ready by the end of the year. I won’t even pretend I came close. But the first draft is done and I’m about a third of the way through the second draft. After that will come my own editing pass, then off it goes. Shall we say end of January? Sure. All together now: end of January.

One other Thing of Consequence happened in December. I’m going to Scotland with my wife, son, and his wife and son. We’ll be going in June for about 15 days. As you might infer from my last name, Scotland is ancestral country for me. Having already been to Italy (that’s the Vincenti side), this leaves only the Netherlands (Van Dusen) to complete my Historical Touchstones Tour. I doubt the Dutch are going to see me, though. Higher on the list is the Adriatic and the Pyrenees. And maybe Italy again, because you just can’t go to Italy too often.

Crawling to Victory

I have about 23,000 words at NaNo, it says here. That’s neither true nor false. What I have is about 75,000 words written on A Child of Great Promise. Of that, maybe 15% is notes and alternate takes on a scene–stuff, iow, that will be thrown out. Another 15% will need heavy editing, mainly for continuity. For example, a number of scenes aren’t going to take place *there* involving *those* people, but will take place *here* involving *these* people. Same scene, but the dialog will have to change, setting descriptions, all of it.

So, how do I translate this activity into NaNo’s paradigm of how many words did you write today. The answer is, I don’t. I’m just plugging in a number. If it’s a day where I’m writing new stuff, I’ll get a word count on that. But if it’s a day when I’m doing that heavy editing, I take the full count of the chapter and call it good. And where it’s light editing, I really do just invent a number.

This round of NaNo is really about keeping my tender nose to the whirling grindstone of time. My task is really about getting chapters to the point where I can present them to an editor. Some of those will involve much writing; others, not so much. Any way you figure it, come November 30, I’ll be done.

To be sure of hitting the target, just shoot. Whatever you hit, call that the target.

New reviews at Amazon

The reviews continue to trickle in! It’s not about quantity, it’s about quality, right? That’s what it says here in the Guide to Feeling Good About Reviews. Page 19.

I’m delighted by the positive reviews and grateful for their thoughtfulness. Now it’s time to get back to A Child of Great Promise.

Origin: Carrotfinger Man

Where do you get your ideas? From history, of course!

This story has a specific origin: the Carrotfinger Man is a figure from legend. While I was still in graduate school, I read a book by Eugen Weber entitled Peasants Into Frenchmen. It’s a marvelous book with rich material for the historical novelist. Its subject is the transformation of France from a place with a wide diversity of local communities into a single nation. This transformation did not happen, as is so often presented, as part of the “rise of the nation-state” in the 17th and 18th centuries, but occurred in the 19th century as a result of economic shifts and was not completed until the crisis of the First World War. I recommend the read to anyone interested in the period, but that’s not why we’re here.

We’re here for the monster.

Somewhere in those pages (my copy of the book disappeared ages ago), Weber tells the story of a Breton legend. Brittany is up in the northwest corner of France and has always been quite separate from the rest of the country. Its people are Celtic and for a very long time they spoke an entirely different language from French. One of the points Weber makes is how scary the world was beyond the confines of the village, and this legend is but one of many told at the time (19th century).

If you were out walking at night in the empty lands between villages, and you came to a bridge, you must be wary, for a monstrous creature roamed. He was tall and thin, with long arms and long fingers and toes. These were in the shape of carrots, though he was strong and quick, and he would drag away the lone wanderer, to throttle and eat them.

It was only a few lines in the book, just one of numerous examples Weber supplies, but it stuck. The Carrotfinger Man stood there at the back of my mind, long arms folded, waiting for me to tell his story. Finally, in 2016, I did, just to make the guy go away. I had no plot, just the core idea of someone encountering the Carrotfinger Man, and that it must take place in Bretagne (Brittany).

Then came the dwarves.

I used two because I wanted opportunity for dialog. I used dwarves because I had not yet written a story with dwarves in it. It was a happy selection because the story takes place in a forest and that’s not the natural habitat for dwarves, so this gave me a reason for them to be on the move. By making them blade smiths, they could have weapons with them.

Then came the pixies.

I don’t quite remember how the idea arrived, but as soon as I thought of them, I knew they had to be in the story. I could foreshadow the monster while providing some comic relief. Interplay between fright and funny is often a good choice. To make their creation tall enough, they had to be three in number, which gave more opportunity for dialog.

Then came the monster.

Weber didn’t give me much, which I suppose is a good thing. Its physical attributes and behaviors are largely my own, aimed mainly at creating a decent sense of horror. The reader will judge my success at that. I knew I didn’t want it to speak.

That’s all there is to it. The rest is just the dreary, difficult work of writing. I hope you enjoy(ed) it!


How to Cross a River

I have an article published at Mythic Scribes entitled “How to Cross a River.” Sounds easy, doesn’t it?

This is the first in a series I’ll be publishing at Mythic Scribes, appearing roughly every other month. Each article provides some historical background for writers (and readers) of fantasy.

This one talks about the pragmatic considerations of getting across a river–on foot, on horseback, or by wagon. It’s trickier than you might think.

Have a look and leave a comment at the end of the article. I’d love to hear from you!



Of Goblins and Gates

The novel is published. It’s been finished for a couple of months, but a dozen other things had to happen first and they have all finally happened. Goblins at the Gates is officially for sale.

Which means I can return to A Child of Great Promise. I’m about 50k into that one, wrestling with what Jim Butcher calls the Great Swampy Middle.


Boise Book Fest

I’ll be at the third annual Boise Book Fest this Saturday. It’s an all-day event, so come early and stay late! Author panels in the morning, workshops in the afternoon, socializing in the evening. I could not get Goblins ready in time, but if you see me there, say hi!


Boise Book Fest