On The Breaking of Dams

Unlike Sarah and others I’m not sufficiently professional to be able to force my way through writing something when there’s no ‘there’ there. It’s not a case of waiting on a fickle muse for inspiration so much as nothing being good enough to go on that page, not having any idea how to move the current plot line forward, and in extreme cases, falling asleep as soon as I fire up the word processing software.

My brain is an evil, deceitful SOB and does things its way no matter what I think about it.

Invariably, when something like this happens, I can backtrack to probable causes only after said problem goes away. I’m not ready for that yet, but I can state confidently that the writing dam has indeed broken, and I’m finally doing something other than futzing around with intermittent fanfic (there’s no commitment, the egoboo is nice, and it keeps me in some degree of practice).

The thing about this – and it goes for all of us who write because we have to – is that when something like this happens, it’s seriously bad for us. We storytellers need to be able to keep telling our stories, or it drives us insane (possibly more insane in my case, since my base level of sanity has been kind of questionable for a very long time). It’s not a coincidence that mental illness and extreme creativity cohabit far more often than mental illness and just about any other trait. Heck, I’ve seen theories that the level of creativity where you’ve got to get that shit out of your head and onto paper (or word processor or whatever) is actually a form of mental illness where the person who has it is able to channel it into something constructive.

If that kind of creativity is the ability to channel mental illness into something constructive, then it makes sense that losing the ability does bad things: it removes the socially acceptable outlet for what one could call quirks, which in turn causes a build-up of a kind of social pressure. Certainly all my worst episodes have happened when I’ve been facing this kind of blockage and unable to find a way to break it.

I’m actually rather relieved I’ve managed to hold myself together through this one and not collapse in a screaming heap (usually a soggy one, since I tend to short-circuit all intense emotion to tears) (and let’s not go into why I had to go back and edit that so I didn’t write ‘heaming screap’).

Not that I’m out of danger yet. Ten days running of decent (five hundred words or better) output doth not a novel make. But it feels like the dam has broken. Tension at the back of my neck has eased off, as if something opened in there (don’t ask. I don’t understand what’s going on, just what it feels like to me).

As for whether it’s worth it, time will tell.

In the meantime, enjoy a wee snippet for the day before the day before New Year’s Eve.


Low Earth orbit, mid April, 2018

Knight-Commander Friedrich Eiriksohn von Uberhalden am Feurichen auf Leuringen frowned at the projections showing which of the planetary leaders had received his message. His head ached: a country boy from the first world of Prussia-in-exile should not ever need to send that kind of ultimatum no matter how far he had risen from those modest origins.

It was honor enough for him to have been raised to the rank of Knight-Commander. To command a ship of the Holy Order and have God’s grace shine on him and his crew and guide them to the long-lost homeworld… That was a miracle.

A miracle mixed with sorrow, for the Holy Nation of Prussia no longer existed on the homeworld.

Friedrich’s stomach knotted with remembered horror at the thought. The nation and Order whose ideals had given humanity hope for over seven hundred years had been blotted from existence, demonized and turned into a byword for hate-filled war-mongers. Prussian achievements were claimed as German, yet given what the translators had made of the homeworld’s information network, Germany could not be considered a successor state to Prussia. It might share the name of the first Germany, but it was such a cringing, weak excuse for a nation forever apologizing for the abominations of the conflict they called the Second World War.

And the Prussians, the Prussians who’d resisted that dreadful regime, their reward had been to lose everything, even their ability to take pride in their heritage.

None of which made the decision to decloak any easier. The message was – thankfully – not his doing. The wording had been sent by grav pulse from the Lord Grandmaster on Leuringen, along with permission to purchase the Prussian heartland from Poland and Russia if they were willing, or to take it by force if not.

Friedrich prayed the leaders of both nations would choose to sell the land.

The Order protected humanity in exile, shepherding the lost souls taken over the centuries by Dracaener slavers, the millions descended from the slaves, bred in captivity to do the dirtiest, coldest work that Dracaener automatons were too delicate and too expensive to do. Friedrich readily admitted that the Order’s guidance might not be as good as perhaps could be imagined, for they were all still mortal and subject to mortal frailty, but all the Masters from the very first, the Blessed Lord Sir Konrad von Kolberg, had given their hearts and souls to their cause.

And, not infrequently, their bodies and their lives.

To wage war against humans… The mere thought ran counter to everything a Knight of the Order strove to be.

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57 responses to “On The Breaking of Dams

  1. I feel your pain – logjams take time to resolve. Mine often lead to something coming out that I hadn’t realized was necessary – but the cost always seems excessive.

    I’m unhappy when events conspire to keep me from writing, but children’s needs tend to come first; after that, there’s nothing left for a day or two. Repeat.

    But I’m reminded by all the losses this year that legacies don’t create themselves, and I better stop wasting the time I do get.

    Congratulations on writing, and yes, 500 words DOES count.

  2. *waves paw full of currency* Moar! Moar!

  3. Oh. My. So this is what a mental logjam produces. _Space_Prussians_.
    Back away slowly . . . “Just need to pencil this into my reading schedule . . . “

    • Kate Paulk

      Yes, my mind is a dangerous place. Space Prussians. Space Prussian Knights. In armor. And – as we later find out – with swords. That yes, do get used in battle.

  4. Anachronda

    …along with permission to purchase the Prussian heartland from Poland and Russia if they were willing…

    Yeah. ‘Cept the heartland of Prussia would be Brandenburg rather than old Prussia.

    As I understand it, and I’ve not yet worked all the way through the history yet, Brandenburg was a poor, landlocked Electorship in the Holy Roman Empire. Being an Electorship, the Elector of Brandenburg had a vote in the election of the Emperor, but wasn’t really a sovereign; he was the catherd of the nobles of Brandenburg.

    Being landlocked, Brandenburg was always looking for a way to acquire a port. The play that paid off was marrying into the line of succession for the Duchy of Prussia, which was outside the Holy Roman Empire.

    Brandenburg proper was devastated during the Thirty Years War, having been raped, looted, and pillaged by friend and foe alike. But Prussia survived. From that base, Brandenburg was able to rebuild and much of what we think of as Prussian stems from that rebuilding; and a lot of it comes from the Dutch upbringing of the Elector of Brandenburg (he wasn’t educated in Brandenburg because it was being stomped on at the time; he wasn’t educated in Vienna because Austria remained Catholic while Brandenburg went Lutheran). Brandenburg came out of the rebuilding with a standing army owing its allegiance to the Elector and with standardized military stuff (the previous arrangement being that the military was composed of bits stood up by the various nobles with varied allegiances and equipment).

    This made Brandenburg strong enough to be interesting to the players in the confusion following the Thirty Years War. One of the cards they played to woo the Elector of Brandenburg was recognition of his sovereignty over Prussia. When the Emperor died, the Elector traded influence over his vote for recognition of his sovereignty over Prussia by the King of Poland.

    Thus, the Elector of Brandenburg came out of the confusion with full and internationally-recognized sovereignty over Prussia, which was outside the Holy Roman Empire.

    Since being a King is awesomer than being an Elector, Brandenburg was renamed Prussia and the rest is history.

    • The book you want is “The Vanished Kingdom.” It is about Prussia and Brandenburg-Prussia, going back to the Teutonic Knights . . . and about how Prussia is remembered. The now Russian and Polish section was OstPreuss – “East Prussia”. It is not an easy area to find a straight chronological history of, especially in English. Alas. 😦

      • Kate Paulk

        Yeah. There’s been a determined attempt to eliminate all things Prussia and Prussian from popular memory, mostly because a certain Austrian corporal jacked off to his notion of what Prussia was.

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      Yeah, but this may be the Teutonic Order.

      • Here’s a map of “the State of the Teutonic Order,” aka Ordenstaat, Teutonic Prussia, or Deutschordensstaat.

        Yeah, it was a lot like a prince-bishopric or a elector-abbacy. But bigger and with more knights.

        • Actually, I think Estonia might be okay with being a space barony, as long as the Knights gave them the standard list of feudal rights, parliamentary fun, internet free speech, etc. And in exchange, the Knights would get to bring Estonian chocolates, chow, and pastry to the universe! Win win!

          • But yeah, Poland and Russia and Lithuania didn’t always have happy history with the Knights. Um. Yeah.

            • On the other hand, they seem to have had a fairly good time hanging with the Hanseatic League. Of which I was totally unaware. “The rise of the Hanseatic League was partially due to having Teutonic Knights as muscle” is not something that was covered in histories I have encountered. (Which is funny, because everybody seems comfy with the Templars as international financiers.)

              • But the Hanse isn’t cool, and no one knows enough about the Teutonic Knights to come up with strange conspiracy theories. Plus they were up in the cold, wet part of Europe, not the cool Middle East and France. Worse, the modern Deutschenordnung . . . is an ambulance service and social assistance group. Seriously not nearly as cool as the Templars.

                • Kate Paulk

                  No, they don’t have the coolth reputation the Templars have, and the biggest “popular” depiction of them (from Alexander Nevski) is pure unmitigated Soviet propaganda.

                • BobtheRegisterredFool

                  At one time I was outlining something where the Teutonic Order was still around, and was running a highschool up near Maine. A fairly ordinary religious Highschool.

                • The Hanse were just cool enough for a video game series, but not for there to be any recent releases in it. Although that may be laid more at the feet of the game designers than the Hanse. YMMV.

            • BobtheRegisterredFool

              I think I could almost literally roll d6 to choose which obnoxious comment to make.

              I’ve spent some time reading about the order and thinking on possibilities.

              • Kate Paulk

                All of them? The Teutonic Order seems to have spent as much time being assholes in armor as they spent being badass knights.

                • BobtheRegisterredFool

                  1. We all remember what she’s written about Vlad Tepes? This is perfect.
                  2. But the Teutonic Order was totes raaciiist. That makes Kate and Sad Puppies always…
                  3. The better explanation is some combination of secular lust for power and religious fervor.
                  4. The order’s remit was partly conversion of the area. One reason it wasn’t reconstituted is that many of the polities it was fighting were now nominally Christian. Given that those polities were allied to pagans, one could question the sincerity of that conversion.
                  5. The USSR doesn’t exactly strongly disprove the conspiracy theory of a Satanic cult controlling the Slavs that would have been overthrown if the Teutonic Order had stayed intact. (Yeah, I’m the “moon ferrets might totally exist in the MHI universe” guy.)
                  6. (NEW) I’m not certain this snippet specifies the exact time period. Probably not during the USSR, but I wouldn’t mind seeing that.

            • Kate Paulk

              A lot of people had unhappy history with the Teutonic Knights. Their claim was that the Polish-Lithuanian alliance didn’t pay them what they were supposed to be paid for subduing the native Prussians. The Poles claimed that wasn’t true.

              Typical diplomacy/small children.

          • Kate Paulk

            Latvia might be more willing, actually. They were the Livonian Brothers of the Sword once upon a time.

            Although I suspect Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania would be willing to forget any bad blood with the Teutonic Knights to get a little bit more in the way of backup should the Russians decide to take a tank battalion on a cross-country stroll in their direction.

      • Kate Paulk

        DINGDINGDING!! We have a winner.

        These guys are indeed the descendants of Teutonic Knights who were abducted by aliens (much to the aliens very short-lived dismay).

    • Kate Paulk

      All of which would be totally on point if I was writing about the heartland of the Kingdom of Prussia (and is fascinating nonetheless – the Great Elector was a savvy and clever man)

      The Monastic State of Prussia owned and run by the Teutonic Knights was a rather different beastie, and that’s where my Prussian Knights are from.

  5. I have a combination log jam plus a sick muse that goes off on tangents. For obvious reasons, my writing has been on hold going on two weeks. By Thursday of last week, I was so tired I had brain fog, and that’s when the sick muse likes to play the most.

    My biggest log jam is something called The Twelfth Night of the Witch Queen, I’ve written the beginning and the ending, but it bogs on the Feast of St. Thomas. Yes, the time frame is a Medieval Twelve Days of Christmas, and it has six more days to run before it gets to the Twelfth Night scenes. And it bogs on December 29. I think that means the problem exists before that point, and was going to try punching it up this year, but …

  6. This is such a cool idea. When will it be out? Because I really, really want to read it.

  7. Christopher M. Chupik

    Prussians? I thought it was the Russians we had to worry about now . . .

  8. Draven

    *throws money at Kate

  9. I read MGC as a storyteller who uses pictures. This one is… interesting.

    My “word-jams” usually result in all nighters and a lifetime of the heating the finished illustration.