Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Editor's Note

To those readers who have enjoyed Neddeth's Bed:

I have not forgotten Neddeth, who started me on a journey which I'm not yet seeing the end of. Inspired by her and her world, I went off-line (and onto NaNoWriMo) to write another novel which takes place in this same place, if not this time. I'm working on getting that novel critiqued and edited, and will be submitting it to publishers soon. Wish me luck!

In the meantime, now that I have finished the other novel I have decided NOT to go on with Neddeth's adventures in blog format, because I'd like to take what I've written here, hone it and make sense of it and complete it, and then submit THAT to publishers. So I'm not abandoning Neddeth, but quietly trying to groom her a little for a new life in paper pages.

That novel, Songs for a Machine Age, was accepted by Hadley Rille Books, and will be coming out online and in stores on November 29th, 2012.  Check out my website and my Indiegogo Campaign to find out more!

In the meantime, this is the place where you have been able to read the first draft version (at least part of it). Maybe someday other people will read the paper version, and wonder what the first draft actually looked like. And they'll be able to go see!

My thanks to readers, be they one person or five hundred.

-- Heather McDougal

Friday, May 23, 2008


My father is sick, again. Once again, it is the figs. I fear for him.

Hieram is still here. I do not know who to talk to. He is not who I -

Oh -

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Hieram, Again

Hieram is here again. My life feels as if one of the Four Lords of the Deep Dark had taken hold of it and steered it toward misery. There is no place the cretin cannot find me, save the Labyrinth! One years' growth has brought him neither wisdom nor selflessness. He has set his desires on conquering me - and there is no Ennis now to help me foil him.

Today I was helping Asta wash out the great, round, copper dye-tubs in which we dye our wool, for it is the season to pick arpe, the flower-buds of the canper plant, and they must be brewed immediately into dye or the lovely blue color is lost. The dye-tubs must be immaculately clean or the dye will be ruined. I was in the courtyard with my old green leggings and short tunic, bent and scrubbing, when he came - as he is certain to do when I am unable to defend myself. Asta watched in disapproval while he laughingly tried to grasp my legs. I moved away around the tub, unable to scrub as I avoided him, yet knowing that the harvesters would be bringing the buds in at any moment. The cobbles were running with dirty water and I flicked my dripping metal-fleece at him irritably to make him go away, but he only laughed and moved closer, his lavish tunic stippled with dark water-spots. I could see his crooked teeth as he smiled.

Luckily, my mother happened to look out her window at that moment.

"Hieram!" she called sharply, "For shame! Neddeth will be Curator someday - she is not a silly chambermaid for you to ravish. You overstep your place, and it will not do to anger the Gods."

Hieram stood back, bowing sarcastically to my mother. "As you wish, Madam," he replied, pretending gallantry. But as she nodded curtly and went back to her writing, he lifted an eyebrow at me. "Until later, my love," he said, and grinned when I reddened. Then he turned and went back toward the Palace, stepping carefully through the water with his stupid, heavy gait, like an overstuffed rooster. My love, indeed!

Asta shook her head when he had gone. "That young man is a horror, just like his uncle," she said, "Don't let yourself be alone with him for a moment."

She had an odd look on her face, and I wondered at it. Hieram is a bother and rather stupid, but I can't think of him as dangerous. Still, I would not choose to be alone with him in any case. He makes me uncomfortable and angry, and -

Oh - someone is aking I m ..

Thursday, May 15, 2008

News From a Quiet Time

Eleanor has a companion.

The last three times I have come to her in my dreams, she has been speaking with someone - a man, I think, though I cannot see what his relation is to her - and I have had to be content to sit within her mind, and listen. The conversations were rich and varied, and I learned many things about this strange world you live in. Your arts are strange to me: there are no Mechanisms, no Gear Tourniers. I wonder how a civilization can be filled with machines, and no-one reaches for the art in them? I shudder at the number of machines I have seen which are created solely to do the work which should rightfully be done by people. How different our worlds are!

The man she speaks to is awkward; there is no Body-knowledge in him. He does not use his hands much. I wonder at that: how can someone so far-reaching in his speaking be so silent with the Gods? Perhaps the Gods themselves are silent, here.

In my world, things are moving slowly. I made, with less effort than I would have thought, a small set of leaping Clowns for the Spring Festival, which is supposed to be about joy and life. Our traditional Clown Engine was to be there, as usual, spinning and falling over and making great silly rollie-pollies and hand-stands to delight the audience; but I decided to make it an entourage. I carefully crafted the gears, enamelling them with many colors so they would match the Clown Engine, and housing them in elegant cut-brass carapaces. It was great fun working to make them wobbly and silly, instead of the other way round, and the leaping mechanism is quite cunning. I am proud of that.

So when the Clown Engine came out, surrounded by six leaping, tumbling children, a great roar went up from the crowd. Even I, who had seen it a hundred times before the Festival, was laughing at their antics. It buoyed my heart, and I determined to write to Ennis to tell him about it. I have heard no word from him since he went off to the University in Wurzen, though my father tells me he is well, and I have been thinking of how to write him in sisterly affection without seeming too stupid.

In two days' time, Hieram comes again, to stay for a fortnight or more. I heard this from Asta, who is close to the Greenswoman at the Palace - the person in charge of vegetables and fruits for the King's tables. This Greenswoman despises Hieram because he comes through the pantry and squeezes the fruit, looking for the best ones. Sometimes, she says, he takes bites to sample them, and then puts them back with the bites hidden. Once he did this to a bowl of fruit destined for the King's study, and the Greenswoman only found out at the last second. When Hieram is around, she locks the Pantry, but he is stealthy. It is like a war between them. What a childish mind he has! I don't look forward to his visit.

There was a great uproar last week at the College of Art and Metallurgical Philosophy, in the Western part of the city. They had a fire - not a large fire, and quickly put out, but it burned through

Monday, April 7, 2008

My Mother and Her Mathematical Books

Things are difficult. My mother has been arguing with a small round man, by the name of Eggfeld, who publishes her books. And as always after these rows, she stays in her room sulking. This happens every time she has a book ready to publish: she gives the finished work to this man Eggfeld, he tells her which parts need to be changed, and she sulks for a week or more.

And we all bear the brunt of her misery.

Eventually, she relents, realizing that Eggfeld is not as stupid as she hoped, and begins to make small changes, eventually becoming obsessed. She locks herself in her room all day until we worry she will starve. After a week or more, she emerges with glowing face and gives the changed text to Eggfeld, who goes away for a day or so and then comes back all smiles, with a bottle of wine for her. She makes a special meal and we all celebrate; Eggfeld merrily tells us stories of his travels in the East, his dealings with writers, and all types of gossip. We all go happily to bed with our heads buzzing, relieved to be done with the whole thing.

For awhile my mother is a changed woman, smiling and helpful and everywhere about the house and town (perhaps too much) for about a month. We all hold our breaths, and try to remain patient with her meddling, as we have come to depend on our freedoms and her inattention, and when she begins to get a look about her eyes - I cannot describe this look, except to say it is not the look of someone listening to what you say - we try not to fidget, while my mother becomes increasingly irritable. One day she goes up to her room, leaving the bread to burn or the laundry to cook dry, and does not come down until dinnertime. At which we all sigh, close our eyes, and thank our Gods, for things are normal once again.

My father laughs and says her Creating is hampered by her leaping and twisting mind, which climbs ideas like ladders and will not be still enough to settle properly into her hands and her movements. We can not all naturally be easy in our bodies, my father says, and he is grateful my mother puts her (very capable) hands to the world at all.

So here we are in the sulking phase, trooping dolefully around and wishing she would make up with Mr. Eggfeld. We miss her beautiful cakes and soups and the wonderful way she doctors the animals. My father, too, misses speaking to her of his work, for she is very perceptive, and can offer him great insight sometimes.

All this, and the Spring Festival preparations have begun. I try to fill my mind with thoughts of my new work, my mother's mood infects me and I move through the days curled around a strange ache. Ennis must be far along the way to Wurzen by now, I think. Later, I think: now he has arrived at the university. I imagine him making new friends, listening to his masters' explanations, watching the some of the best Gear Tourniers in the Greater Lands at work.

I want to be there, with him, learning what he is learning, talking to him about what we are seeing and hearing. I feel left behind, too young, useless. Father says -

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Eleanor Changing

Eleanor grows much better. The last visit I saw that she was seeing more clearly, and her fingers were eager to spell my words. I am pleased that she has passed through her ordeal and is here again with me.

She seems to be packing. I do not know if she is going away, or moving from one house to another. All the many things that lay around her household are cleared away, and there are no less than three boxes packed neatly in the corner by the bed. Perhaps she is simply ridding herself of the useless things which have collected around her. Where do you go, my Eleanor, my Hands, my only and best company?

The streets outside seem softer, somehow, though the snow still comes down tonight. I wonder

Friday, March 7, 2008

Learning My Work

We are preparing for the Spring Festival, and the King appears to be unruffled by my father's requests, so we all move a bit easier. I am of the feeling that the King holds my father's word to be be truer than the Duke's. However, the Duke has far more power and influence among the Blood than my father, so the King does not protect my father as much as he could.

Which my father understands. He is not only a great Gear Tournier, but a high authority on spiritual and educational matters, bound to uphold not only the Creating of machines, but motion and beauty and the importance of the human body. To move is to live. Economy of motion, the use of our hands, and Creating things are what we live by; therefore, my father stands as the King's closest advisor and the keeper of our History. His sphere of influence is within the universities, with teachers and Gear Tourniers from all around the country. They work to keep these traditions and tenets alive, and keep the citizens educated in these things and in everything else. He works very hard at it.

And because his position is in benefit to the general populace, he is... well, popular. It is this, I think, which the Duke despises or envies in him. The world loves the Curator, or at the least they love my father - to hear stories of the Curator before him, a man to whom he came through his natural ability rather than heredity, he sounds a cold and prickly man, though my father loved him. I suppose, then, that the Curator is as influential as his abilities with people, though he always deserves immense respect.

I have set to work with a will, learning as best I can from my father. Bereft, I see with new eyes. If I am to be Curator in his stead, I must use all the knowledge I have soaked up as a Palace brat, all the many hours of my father explaining things as I grew. I realize now he has been training me, all my life, without my knowledge: working it into the edges of things, into my lessons, into our discussions around the kitchen table.

I always knew I was likely to be the next Curator, as my sister was never of a mind for it. Yet somehow I resisted it, did not like the idea of doing it, simply because it was hoped-for. I felt somehow that everyone was telling me who I must be, what direction I must follow. But since Ennis has left me I see beyond myself: there are greater distances inside me. I see that my father, who was not the son of the previous Curator but one who came to the task naturally, is a different person than the Curator before him.

So may I be a different person, a different Curator than my father. I hope, when the time comes, that I will be as good at the work as he.

This Feast-day I hope to