Thursday, October 30, 2014

Perils of the Writer: The Horrors of the Trunked Novels

I like to remind people that getting to the point where I am, with two novels coming out next year with a major publisher, was a journey.  Before I even wrote the first draft of Thorn of Dentonhill, I wrote two other novels.  Two novels which should never see the light of day.

So let's talk about them.

The Fifty Year War was a very bad attempt to emulate something akin to Isaac Asimov's Foundation, where the key events of a multi-generational war is told through a series of novelette-length vignettes.  Because nine 10k-ish novelettes equals one novel, right? 

Except not so much.  Let alone that there isn't so much a "plot" as there is "stuff that happens".  There isn't anything for readers to hook into.  The closest to a "main" character is an officer named Benton who has a key role in three or four of the sections, and then a minor cameo later.  The only other bit of recurring involves the various generations of a soldier family who keep getting killed in key battles.  That was my way of highlighting the toll on the 'average' man in this war: killing off pikemen named Weaver. 

When it comes down to it, Fifty Year War is essentially a chunk of Druth history that I had already worked out, setting the stage for the "real" time I wanted to write in.  So in a lot of ways, it comes off as a prequel to something that didn't exist, filled with the obvious piece-setting that prequels have, but making zero sense to anyone but myself.

So I would fix those mistakes with Crown of Druthal.  There I had a set cast of characters, so the readers would have main people to grab onto.  And I would have them... do... plot-like things? 

Yeah, not quite.

First problem with Crown comes down to the same challenge a lot of fantasy-worldbuilders face: I've made this whole world, and now I'm going to show it ALL TO YOUALL OF IT.  It was literally a travelogue with absolutely no McGuffin to chase from country to country.  The characters were the crew of a diplomatic ship more or less assigned to go on a world tour.  They were to go to each country so I could show you each country.  I totally had a whole multi-book series planned, and by "planned" that meant I knew which countries they would go to.  Which was a huge part of the problem, especially with Crown, the book I actually wrote.  I had to jam a series of events from "stuff that happens in country A" and "stuff that happens in country B" into something that looked like a plot for a single book.  But since I was far more interested in just touring both countries, the plot takes a good long while to get going.

The other problem is the story is loaded with characters who are essentially there to be set decoration.  I had a ship full of people, with different specialties and jobs, and most of them served absolutely no purpose in the story.  I did some logistical contortions to give most of them a toehold in the climax-- so a combination of telepathy, magic and celestial navigation is used to determine where my main character was being held captive, so then the guys with swords could mount a rescue. 

There are bits in Crown that I'm fond of, but it's mired in long sections where characters are more or less hanging out, taking at least half the book before the plot proper actually gets going.  And the plot itself?  Kind of a long way to drive to get a gallon of milk.

But in the process of writing these two trunked novels, I learned plenty about how to write a novel, how to structure character arcs and plots.  So: they're bad, they'll stay in the archives for all time, but they were vital to the process of eventually writing Thorn of Dentonhill and A Murder of Mages

Monday, October 27, 2014

Worldbuilding: Building Blocks and Lists

I've talked before about the importance of understanding how agriculture and domestication of animals influences the building of societies.  Cultures don't move past hunter-gather stages without domesticating animals and mastering agriculture, and they can't do that if the proper plants or animals aren't present. 

So, what are the "proper" plants and animals? 

Well, I've done research (built off other people's research, of course), and compiled it here for easy access. 


Here's a list of forty animals which form the basis for early-culture domestication.  I'll break this into three sections: large domesticatible animals, small domesticatible animals, and semi-domesticatible animals.  The semi-domesticatibles are ones where various individual factors (such as ability to breed in captivity, or demeanor) prevent full domestication from occurring.  I've also included how each animal can be useful to the culture domesticating them. 

Alpaca (Vicugna pacos) USES: fibre, meat, show, pets
Domestic Bactrian camel (Camelus bactrianus) USES: milk, transportation, working, hunting, plowing, draft, mount, fighting, show, racing, meat, hair
Domestic pig (Sus scrofa domesticus) USES: meat, leather, research, show, racing, fighting, truffles, pets
Yak (Bos grunniens) USES: milk, transportation, working, plowing, mount, racing, fighting, meat, fibre
Domestic dromedary camel (Camelus dromedarius) USES: transportation, working, hunting, plowing, draft, mount, show, racing, fighting, milk, meat
Bali cattle (Bos javanicus domestica) USES: meat, milk, show, racing, working, plowing, draft
Donkey (Equus africanus asinus) USES: transportation, working, plowing, draft, mount, meat, milk, pets, racing, guarding
Domestic goat (Capra aegagrus hircus) USES: milk, meat, fibre, skin, show, racing, fighting, clearing land, pets
Horse (Equus ferus caballus) USES: transportation, meat, working, guiding, servicing, hunting, execution, plowing, draft, mount, fighting, show, racing, milk, pets
Water buffalo, including "river buffalo" (Bubalus arnee) and "swamp buffalo" (Bubalus bubalis carabenesis) USES: working, plowing, draft, mount, fighting, meat, show, racing, milk
Zebu (Bos primigenius indicus) USES: meat, milk, leather, hides, working, plowing, draft, vellum, blood, transportation, soil fertilization, fighting, show, racing
Gayal (Bos frontalis) USES: meat
Cattle (Bos primigenius taurus) USES: meat, milk, leather, hides, working, plowing, draft, vellum, blood, transportation, soil fertilization, fighting, show, pets
Llama (Lama glama) USES: transportation, working, draft, pack, meat, show, racing, pets, guarding
Sheep (Ovis aries) USES: fibre, meat, milk, leather, pelt, vellum, pets, show, racing, research, guarding, fighting, ornamental

Domestic goose (Anser anser domesticus) USES: meat, feathers, eggs, show, guarding, pets
Domestic duck (Anas platyrhynchos domesticus) USES: meat, feathers, eggs, pets, show, racing, ornamental
Domestic pigeon (Columba livia domestica) USES: show, ornamental, messenger, meat, racing, pets
Chicken (Gallus gallus domesticus) USES: meat, eggs, feathers, leather, show, racing, ornamental, fighting, pets
Ferret (Mustela putorius furo) USES: pets, hunting, pest control, show, racing
Domestic turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) USES: meat, feathers, eggs, show, pets
Domestic silkmoth (Bombyx mori) USES: silk, animal feed, pets, meat
Guinea pig (Cavia porcellus) USES: pets, meat, show, racing, research
Domestic rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) USES: meat, pelt, fibre, pets, show, racing, research
Cat (Felis silvestris catus) USES: pets, pest control, show, pelt, research
Dog (Canis lupus familiaris) USES: Pets, hunting, herding, guarding, pest control, transportation, draft, working, show, racing, sport, rescuing, guiding, servicing, meat, research
Domestic guineafowl (Numida meleagris) USES: meat, eggs, pest control, show, alarming, pets

Mandarin duck (Aix galericulata) USES: meat, ornamental
Stingless bee (Melipona beecheii) USES: honey, pollination
Indian peafowl (Pavo cristatus) USES: show, feathers, meat, ornamental, pets
Egyptian mongoose (Herpestes ichneumon) USES: pest control, pets
Addax (Addax nasomaculatus) USES: meat, horns, leather, skin
Muscovy duck (Cairina moschata) USES: meat, feathers, eggs, show, pets
Red deer
(Cervus elaphus) USES: meat, velvet, hides, leather, antlers
Western honey bee (Apis mellifera), including subspecies Italian bee (A. mellifera ligustica), European dark bee (A. mellifera mellifera), and Carniolan honey bee (A. mellifera carnica) USES: honey, wax, pollination
Fallow deer (Dama dama) USES: meat, hides, antlers
Semi-domesticated reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) USES: meat, milk, transportation, working, draft, mount, hides, racing, leather, antlers
Asiatic honey bee (Apis cerana), including subspecies Indian honey bee (Apis cerana indica) USES: honey, pollination
Asian elephant (Elephas maximus), including subspecies Indian elephant (Elephas maximus indicus) USES: working, transportation, hunting, show, racing, fighting
Scimitar oryx (Oryx dammah) USES: meat, hides, horns


For this list, I'm going to look less at individual plants, and more at centers of origin for plant domestication.  Roughly speaking, there were eight "centers of origin" on Earth for independent rise of agriculture (two with subcenters), so the more realistic option would be to keep these various species of plants grouped together.  So here are the centers, including where they were developed.

Center 1  (Mexico/Central America)
Grains and Legumes: maize, common bean, lima bean, tepary bean, jack bean, grain amaranth
Melon Plants: malabar gourd, winter pumpkin, chayote
Fiber Plants: upland cotton, bourbon cotton, henequen (sisal)
Miscellaneous: sweetpotato, arrowroot, pepper, papaya, guava, cashew, wild black cherry, chochenial, cherry tomato, cacao.

Center 2 (South America, northwestern region)
Root Tubers: potato, Other endemic cultivated potato species. Fourteen or more species with chromosome numbers varying from 24 to 60, edible nasturtium
Grains and Legumes: starchy maize, lima bean, common bean
Root Tubers: edible canna, potato
Vegetable Crops: pepino, tomato, ground cherry, pumpkin, pepper
Fiber Plants: cotton
Fruit and Miscellaneous: cocoa, passion flower, guava, heilborn, quinine tree, tobacco, cherimoya
2A (Chilean region)
Common potato (48 chromosomes), Chilean strawberry
2B (Brazilian region)
manioc, peanut, rubber tree, pineapple, Brazil nut, cashew, Erva-mate, purple granadilla.

Center 3 (Mediterranean Coasts)
Cereals and Legumes: durum wheat, emmer, Polish wheat, spelt, oats, sand oats, canarygrass, grass pea, pea, lupine
Forage Plants:  clover, white clover, crimson clover, serradella
Oil and Fiber Plants: flax, rape, black mustard, olive
Vegetables: garden beet, cabbage, turnip, lettuce, asparagus, celery, chicory, parsnip, rhubarb,
Ethereal Oil and Spice Plants: caraway, anise, thyme, peppermint, sage, hop.

Center 4 (Middle East)
Grains and Legumes: einkorn wheat, durum wheat, poulard wheat, common wheat, oriental wheat, Persian wheat, two-row barley, rye, Mediterranean oats, common oats, lentil, lupine
Forage Plants: alfalfa, Persian clover, fenugreek, vetch, hairy vetch
Fruits: fig, pomegranate, apple, pear, quince, cherry, hawthorn.

Center 5 (Ethiopia)
Grains and Legumes: Abyssinian hard wheat, poulard wheat, emmer, Polish wheat, barley, grain sorghum, pearl millet, African millet, cowpea, flax, teff
Miscellaneous: sesame, castor bean, garden cress, coffee, okra, myrrh, indigo.

Center 6 (Central Asia)
Grains and Legumes: common wheat, club wheat, shot wheat, peas, lentil, horse bean, chickpea, mung bean, mustard, flax, sesame
Fiber Plants: hemp, cotton
Vegetables: onion, garlic, spinach, carrot
Fruits: pistacio, pear, almond, grape, apple.

Center 7 (India)
Cereals and Legumes: rice, chickpea, pigeon pea, urd bean, mung bean, rice bean, cowpea,
Vegetables and Tubers: eggplant, cucumber, radish, taro, yam
Fruits: mango, orange, tangerine, citron, tamarind
Sugar, Oil, and Fiber Plants: sugar cane, coconut palm, sesame, safflower, tree cotton, oriental cotton, jute, crotalaria, kenaf
Spices, Stimulants, Dyes, and Miscellaneous: hemp, black pepper, gum arabic, sandalwood, indigo, cinnamon tree, croton, bamboo.
7A (Southeast Asia)
Cereals and Legumes: Job's tears, velvet bean
Fruits: pummelo, banana, breadfruit, mangosteen
Oil, Sugar, Spice, and Fiber Plants: candlenut, coconut palm, sugarcane, clove, nutmeg, black pepper, manila hemp.

Center 8 (China)
Cereals and Legumes: e.g. broomcorn millet, Italian millet, Japanese barnyard millet, Koaliang, buckwheat, hull-less barley, soybean, Adzuki bean, velvet bean
Roots, Tubers, and Vegetables: e.g. Chinese yam, radish, Chinese cabbage, onion, cucumber
Fruits and Nuts: e.g. pear, Chinese apple, peach, apricot, cherry, walnut, litchi
Sugar, Drug, and Fiber Plants: e.g.sugar cane, opium poppy, ginseng camphor, hemp.

Hopefully, you'll find these lists helpful to build some interesting things.  Good luck.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Perils of the Writer: Deadlines and Schedules

I'm a big believer in a regular writing schedule.  Find a time of day that works best for you, carve that time out, and affix yourself to a chair and get it done.  It's not always easy or fun, but that's how one gets it done. 

Now, fortunately, so far, I've not had much of a problem with deadlines.  The Thorn of Dentonhill and A Murder of Mages were essentially complete manuscripts when they sold.  Editing work was required, but the time I was given to get that done was ample.  On top of that, as soon as I signed the Thorn contract I started to put my nose to the grindstone on Thorn II

That doesn't mean I'm immune to things blowing up in my face.  A disruption to my life can throw everything out of sync.  A few weeks ago my wife was in a car accident.  Fortunately her injuries were relatively minor, but the car was totaled.  So the process of dealing with things like insurance, car rental, and so forth is time and energy out of my day, and that has to come from somewhere, and "somewhere" more often than not turns out to be writing. Or sleep.  Or the dishes pile up.  Those last two tend to come to a head far sooner than the writing, though. 

Since my deadlines are relatively self-imposed at this point (i.e., when I want to get something done is sooner than other people are asking for it), getting back on track is mostly a matter of readjusting my expectations and going back to the grind.  I've learned from experience that trying to do things like double my output or "catch up" usually results in things going even further off the rails.

Not to be all tortoise-and-the-hare, but slow and steady, getting back on task and doing the work each day is really the only thing you can do.  But it does help that my personal deadlines give me enough breathing room to account for things going wrong. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Worldbuilding: Putting the Civil in Civilization

The real test of a civilization is not just its laws, but how its laws are put into practice.  Criminal law is one aspect, of course: does the society care more about justice, or maintaining order?  Are trials designed to be fair, and truly find the guilty, or simply expedite a resolution.  Are the people protected from the state, or is the state protected from the people?

But civil law is another matter, and is often less examined in worldbuilding.  How do two citizens resolve a dispute or wrong in which, strictly speaking, no crime has occurred?  At least, in something resembling a culturally-accepted "official" way.  For some people, regardless of the level of civilization, the answer is, "Punch the other person in the face."  And at that point, quite possibly, a crime has occurred, or if nothing else, the situation will continue to escalate into more violence.

However, a society, in general, is going to want to avoid "punch person in the face" solutions in favor of non-violent, non-escalating one. 

Depending on how advanced the society is, this can take a lot of forms.  Sometimes it's just a ritual in which one party acknowledges they wronged the other, gives some form of recompense, and things return to normal.  However, the larger a society is, the more likely the two parties are complete strangers, and have little reason to trust each other to "do the right thing".  The right thing must be imposed, usually by contract or third-party arbitration.  Is this a formal or an informal process?  Is the third-party's authority universally recognized, or is simply agreed upon by the initial parties involved?

Now, in a lot of fantasy fiction, which often has its roots in an idealized version of medieval or Renaissance Europe, there is often the solution that is violent, but under strictly controlled rules and traditions.  I'm speaking, of course, of the duel.  But the duel does boil down to a formalized version of "punch the other person in the face" where it's designed to not escalate into further fighting, or even war. 

So, how does it work in your worlds, when no crime has been committed, but someone's honor must be satisfied, or a grievance must be addressed, or some other wrong righted? 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Thoughts on My Online Presence

There's something strangely meta about writing about my online presence here, as this is part of my online presence.  My blog-writing is more or less the centerpiece of it.

Managing one's online presence, especially as an author (or any other creative-type-promoting-oneself) can be a full-time job in and of itself.  No one has time for that.  I'm actually quite surprised when I see big names constantly blogging, tweeting, facebooking, etc.  But, hey, if they can make it work, good for them.  There's no way I can do that.

Here's a piece of advice I received on the subject a few years ago: Pick one aspect of on-line presence to be your center-of-gravity.  This is the primary place you'll put original content.  For me, it's my blog.  Every other bit of social media or online presence should be designed to direct back towards that central presence. 

That means that my Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc. are all designed to be a public face, and lead you back toward the blog, which is where you'll see new and interesting things from me.

I even linked my blog to my LinkedIn and Goodreads page.  Those update automatically when I do.  And that way I can put most of my online-presence energy into writing creative and interesting content here, and still have energy to also write books. 

And that's important, because what's the value of having the online presence if it isn't in service of your books?

AND SPEAKING OF... over at Goodreads you can enter to win a free copy of Thorn of Dentonhill.  Head over there and sign up!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Worldbuilding: Magic, Sorcery and Witchcraft

Magic is usually an integral part of any secondary fantasy world.  That tends to be the thing that makes it a "fantasy world", rather than just some form of alternate Earth.  But "magic" is a broad, wide-ranging term.  What exactly does it mean, and how does it work?

If you're trying to define magic in the simplest, most accurate way possible, the best I've got is "Energy that can be shaped to generate effects contrary to natural order."  Which can cover a pretty wide range. 

How magic works in your world is a pretty crucial concern, as well as what you call it. Hell, talk to just about anyone about process of writing fantasy, and the phrase "rules of magic" will probably come up.   In Thorn of Dentonhill, I call it only "magic"-- at least in what Veranix can do-- and since it's in an academic setting, I name the energy itself ("numina"), but what magic can do in that world is relatively open-ended, so there's little need for a more specific term.

But what marks the line between a mage, a wizard, a witch, a warlock, a sorcerer, a necromancer, etc?  Well, necromancer is easy: they deal with the dead.  But even that can be open-ended.  A necromancer might be raising a zombie-army, or might be investigating the dead and contacting spirits to solve murders.*  But are those all things in your world?

But what is "witchcraft"?  What is "sorcery"?  Are these all just different names for the same thing in your world, or does your world have one of them specifically?  Does your world have all of them, as different forms of "magic"?

I've often cited The Belgariad as an early influence on me, and one thing I liked was how he had several different powers in his world, though "magic" and "witchcraft" were limited forms, while "sorcery" was a more direct connection to the source-code of the universe, giving its users immortality and the ability to create something-- including a new species-- out of nothing.

Magic in Thorn of Dentonhill is not so limitless.  For one, it can't heal, nor can it touch the dead or the afterlife.  (Strictly speaking, a mage could make a dead body get up and walk around, but it would be literally nothing more than puppetry of any inanimate object.)   It can't directly affect the mind, or give one the ability to read someone's thoughts.  However, in the world of Thorn, there are other powers beyond that of "magic".  At the beginning of Thorn, Veranix isn't as familiar with them as he probably should be.  He's not exactly the best student, after all.

*- Have you read Amanda Downum's Necromancer Chronicles, specifically The Bone Palace?  Well, you should.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Writing Is Never Working Alone

I like to use my "go down into the word mines" analogy about writing, as if it presents this image of me as this lonely old prospector, heading down into the depths with pick-axe over my shoulder. 

Of course, that's not how it really works.  You can't do this without people having your back. 

I've got a lot of people, but if I had to narrow it down to the inner circle, I'd have four names.

1. Dan Fawcett -- Dan's been my friend since seventh grade, and has been my constant sounding board for story ideas, worldbuilding concepts, and generally putting up with my ramblings.  He would probably hesitate to take any credit, but Thorn of Dentonhill and the rest of the books in Maradaine wouldn't be what they are without his influence.  Heck, I'm pretty sure he's the one who suggested "Maradaine" as the city's name. 

2. Mike Kabongo-- my agent, who has stood with this work in the time it took us to sell it, who encouraged continued projects while Thorn and others were out shopping, and who read a manuscript that wasn't ready, but saw enough potential in it that he was hooked.

3. Sheila Gilbert -- my editor at DAW.  There are plenty of other people at DAW as well, half of whom I don't even know their name, who are all doing things for me and my work.  But Sheila is front and center, making Thorn be the best it can be when it hits the shelves in February.

4. Deidre Kateri Aragon -- my wife.  Of course she's on this list, because it would have been impossible for me to achieve this without her.  She's the one who kicked my butt so I stopped being the person saying, "Yeah, I'd like to be writing books" and made me actually write books.  And just as I'm working every day on writing, she's working every day so I'm able to.  But we both work from home, so we get to sit across from each other at our big table.  So it's the best of all things; I get the space I need to work, but I have my favorite person in the world right there with me. 

Are there more people?  Yes. Tons. I could go on, but that's what acknowledgement pages in books are for, right?  And even there, I probably missed a few.

That said, it's time to make the most of their support.  Off to the word mines.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Perils of the Writer: Riddles, Puzzles and Games

There is something alluring to putting a riddle in your story, especially in fantasy.  Heck, that goes back to The Hobbit and the riddle game between Bilbo and Gollum.  But making a good riddle, that's another matter.

I recently read a book-- no need to go into specifics-- but the underlying premise involved solving riddles to get to the end goal.  And in it, people were downright stumped by said riddles. For months on end.  Thus the author was telling us that they were super hard.

Except I solved each riddle within moments of reading them.  So, at least for me, the foundation the book was built on was extraordinarily flimsy.

But on the other hand, you don't want your riddles to be so hard they're based on a logic that only a madman could get from A to B to C, and then realize that "C" means "see", and you need glasses to see, and glasses are kept in the cabinet, and therefore The Riddler is going to assassinate the President's Cabinet!*

So, having your puzzle actually make logical sense is crucial.  But the great thing about logical puzzles is they can seem like complete crazysauce, because Pure Logic rules don't really apply to the real world.  Take, for example, the "100 Green-Eyed Dragon" puzzle.  The nature of the puzzle is extremely convoluted, involving several rules and caveats to enable it to work the way it does.  I won't give you the answer, but I will say that the answer only works because it's a matter of Pure Logic, including the caveat that every dragon involved operates on pure logic, and they also know that every other dragon involved also operates on pure logic.  Take that presumption away, and the whole house of cards falls apart.**

Of course, much of the fun of putting riddles or puzzles in a story is having your characters go through the process of solving it.  If you can work it that A. your (average) reader hasn't already figured it out and B. after going through the process with the character they will think, "Yes, that makes sense now.", then you've succeeded. 

What are some of the riddles you have in your stories?

*- This is not an actual example of The Riddler's riddles on the old Superfriends show, but it more or less fits the train of logic to get to the actual intended answer the show had.   
**- Another example is the Prisoners and Hats puzzle.  Quick version: three prisoners are sentenced to be executed, but the jailer will let them go if they solve a puzzle. He has four hats: two blue and two red.  He lines them up and puts the hats on their heads, so no prisoner can see his own hat, and the second prisoner can see the first, and the third can see the second and first.    Now, the the solution comes from the fact that if the third prisoner sees two hats of the same color on #1 and #2, he immediately knows he's got the other color, and says so.  But if he sees #1 and #2 have different colors, then he knows nothing about his own hat.  However, #3's silence would indicate to #2 that his hat is different from #1, so he can figure it out.  That's the solution, but it's entirely based on the idea that #3 isn't an idiot, and that #2 also isn't an idiot, AND he knows that #3 isn't an idiot.  Poor prisoner #1, of course, has no information and has to rely on the both of these two, praying that they aren't idiots.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Perils of the Writer: Haters Gonna Hate; Raters Gonna Rate.

So I have to confess to another bad habit, at least a bad habit for writers.  I like to go to the Amazon page of books I enjoyed (or Goodreads or what have you) and read the one-star and two-star reviews.  And, sometimes, they have valid points, and I can see where they were coming from.  Other times, said reviews are crazy-sauce.  If the internet has proven one thing, it's that some people will fundamentally mis-read something, and have loud opinions about it.

Knowing that, am I going to be able to keep myself from reading my one-star and two-star reviews? 

No, I'm not.  I'm really not.  I just don't have that kind of self-control.

However, what I think I'll be able to do is roll with those bad reviews.  I won't respond to or challenge the reviewers. I will likely rant and scream a bit within the confines of my own household, but nothing public.  I mean, I was an actor and theatre producer, so I've had bad reviews before.  I can take it. 

But.... I might also see some valid points. Points that I could learn from in the next project.  Or give me insight into which aspects of the books are or aren't working for people.  Because, it would be the height of hubris to think that I've got everything figured out and there's nothing left for me to learn.  Even the most misguided, vitriolic bile-spitting hate-screed of a review could have a seed of value I can harvest. And if there isn't, then... ignore it.

And since there's always more to harvest, it's off to the word... fields.  Hmm.  That metaphor isn't quite as romantic, is it?