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Click here for the index to Kaas Baichtal's novel, Vale of Tears.
By Kaas Baichtal on Friday, March 17, 2000 - 2:09 pm: Edit Post

I didn't think I was going to start posting this to the Pens until after Undertow was finished, but suddenly I changed my mind.

This is a story I began right when I first discovered S~G fandom about 3 years ago. I completely obsessed on the story. I was working on the outline on the train on my way to work every day. I had a really bad experience with this story, and that was trying to get an outline OK'd by JL. If you remember the famous "this is drivel, I didn't read it" and "Don't let your subconscious piddle on your keyboard" quotes from the List, this is the story that was all about.

JL finally told me I was not ready to work on this story and that if I wanted to learn how to write I should start another story from scratch. That was how Undertow was born.

I don't believe in any of that anymore and I don't think that the lack of an acceptable outline, or any of the other terribly wrong things I have done (like telling the story from two different characters' point of view... you will meet Tomas in the 2nd chapter) will harm it. And if it does, I don't care. This story has been inside of me for 3 years wanting to reach the world, and it's going to, whether anyone wants it or not. This was the original product of my fannish exuberance when I first joined S~G fandom, and I don't want to believe that that joy has been completely squashed.

P.S. Cheryl, the current outline is very close to what you'll remember from when JL was trying to get you to teach me her mysterious outlining style.

P.P.S. [to all] Yes, this story has a happy ending. It should be both satisfying and uplifting. But it starts out at the beginning, and there is a lot of lifting to do.

By Kaas Baichtal on Friday, March 17, 2000 - 2:27 pm: Edit Post

I forgot to mention, this is also the story that has the channel Garlen, that our server is named after.

Garlen was the first channel character I ever created. He was later one of the stronger influences in the Riyyh character. Householding Naros was also created because of Vale of Tears, it is the householding Tomas was born in.

By Ann Marie on Friday, March 17, 2000 - 3:49 pm: Edit Post

Very, very interesting. Too bad you got scared off by JL's nastiness. I think one thing which gets forgotten all too often, is the fundamental purpose of all the 'rules'. They are to keep the reader reading. Everthing else is gravy.

The most powerful tool in the arsenel is to get the reader asking, "What's going to happen next?" Of course they are going to turn the page to find out. You did this very well. I want to find out what happens to Jo. All the things people teach on writing are aids to keep the reader's attention. You succeeded.

Ann Marie

By Kaas Baichtal on Friday, March 17, 2000 - 5:24 pm: Edit Post

Thanks, Ann Marie, I appreciate your comments. Chapter 2 of Vale is in even worse shape than Chapter 2 of Undertow was a few months ago, so it may be a while but I will post it here eventually. Unfortunately, you won't see Johehna again until Chapter 3! ~~evil grin~~

By Eliza on Friday, March 17, 2000 - 5:53 pm: Edit Post

The thing I like most about this one (and indeed, most of your writing Kaas) is that it's not main stream. You always come up with something different!

By Ann Marie on Friday, March 17, 2000 - 6:33 pm: Edit Post

A very odd little point. I went from reading this today to reading some translated Russian SF. Very similar feel actually.

Ann Marie

By Kaas Baichtal on Friday, March 17, 2000 - 7:24 pm: Edit Post

I have never seen any Russian SF but I have seen older Russian animation and there was a common quality of beauty/sadness which is not dissimilar.

The most similar other work I have written myself was "Erica" (non-S~G). It lacks the haunted forest element but it has the same writing style.

By Kaas Baichtal on Friday, March 17, 2000 - 7:25 pm: Edit Post

If you can't tell, my favorite fairy tale of all time is "The Forest Tontlawald".

By D'Yon on Friday, March 17, 2000 - 8:29 pm: Edit Post

Kaas, this is fantastic. You've got me immediately interested in these characters and the description of the slow decay of the Vale gives me the same shiver down the spine some of my favorite horror stories do. There is a kind of Lovecraftian feel to the setting. Hope we see more soon.

By Zoe Farris on Friday, March 17, 2000 - 11:49 pm: Edit Post

I have not had time to read it yet, i will print it out now.:) The thing i'd like to say at the moment is that "outline" is a personal thing. because one writer uses it does not mean it should be used. Many writers actually hate using outline and prefere their stories, and characters to come out in their writing. In my writing lessons I try a little of each method. Neither is 'right" or "wrong".

By Ann Marie on Saturday, March 18, 2000 - 2:29 pm: Edit Post

I really, really enjoy seeing different writing styles as well. Much of why I am such a serious ebook junkie is because then I get to read different styles. For me, often, if a writer has an interesting enough way of putting words on paper, I'll read the story just to wallow in the sensual aspects of the arrangements of words on the page. Part of the problem with being a poet as well as a prose writer, I suppose.

Ann Marie

By Betsy Westphal on Saturday, March 18, 2000 - 8:44 pm: Edit Post

Oh, my. This chapter gives me the shivers. If that's what you wanted, Kaas, this is really impressive. And the key to fiction people want to read is will they turn the page? I am waiting fairly frantically for chapter 2.
Also, I am really sorry JL said what she said. We all have to start somewhere, and if this story was where you started you are on your way to being a helluva lot better writer than some of us!
Blessed be,

By Jocelyn on Sunday, March 19, 2000 - 4:56 pm: Edit Post


Whew!! I just finished Chapter 1. The absolute sinking horror of people who can't even muster the strength to despair any more is so brilliantly evoked by your words. Your portrayal of the Vale as an uncaring entity slowly swallowing everything is intense.

More please!!

By Kaas Baichtal on Wednesday, March 22, 2000 - 12:20 am: Edit Post

Thank you, all, for your comments. I am glad you enjoyed the horror aspect of this; I wanted to give an idea of what makes Johehna (as seen in the rest of the book) the person she is, a little of her background.

The way this story is written, Tomas is undoubtedly a protagonist; the reader will be able to choose whether to think of Johehna a 2nd protagonist or his antagonist. Either way, I believe, the story will work. I did it this way because I know that some people want their villains to be quite evil while others want them to be 3-dimensional (my mother is one of the former, I'm one of the latter).

By Mary Lou on Friday, March 24, 2000 - 10:10 am: Edit Post


As you can see, those puppy-dog eyes during last night's game have had their effect. But then, Riyyh is irresistable, isn't he?

This draft is much more complete than the last version I read (was it two or three years ago?)
No surprise there. It consequently has greater impact. I was a little surprised that people weren't leaving the Vale in search of a better home. Something must have happened to convince them that the rest of the world was in worse shape, probably before Johehna was born, though, and she wouldn't necessarily know about it.

The mood of hopelessness is a lot more consistent. This time, I believed that Johehna's action in capturing her own Sime (and her future actions with regard to her prisoner if you keep them essentially the same) were her own twisted stab at a heroic last stand against entropy.

She and Garlen make quite a pair. Add Snake and Arat--where do you come up with such characters?

By Kaas Baichtal on Friday, March 24, 2000 - 12:37 pm: Edit Post

This is a story about the very end of a town, not the decades or even centuries leading up to that. Probably a bunch of people did leave, but this story isn't about them. If you don't buy that, consider the extreme isolation of the town. The Cabinet Mountains Wilderness has never been heavily settled, even now. It probably will not have been by Sime~Gen times. Given the heavy terrain, the harsh climate (snowstorms as late as June and as early as September), the lack of communications with the outside, and the personality types who would originally consider farming in such a place, is it so unbelievable that the last few remaining folks in such a town would be there for life? Today, that area has one of the last existing private, hand-cranked telephone systems in the U.S. It even has its own telephone number system, which only has 2 or 3 digits. Volunteers have to go out and hang off cliffs in blizzards to repair it. Sure, it's not logical, but that's how they are. There's people who farm up there today, too. It's very hard to buy farmland there, because nobody ever sells it.

As to how I come up with these characters, actually that's an interesting question.

Johehna, Tomas and Garlen were the result of questions I asked myself. For Johehna, it was, "What if a wild Gen captured a Sime, and..." (I'm leaving off the end of the question so I don't spoil the story heh heh) Then I had to create Johehna as a person with the background to be capable of doing what she ultimately does. For Garlen, the question was, "What if there was a visionary who thought he knew the way to beat Zelerod's Doom, and it didn't at all match the Householding way?" Tomas came 3rd: "What if there were a Householder who found himself isolated from his people, and confronted with Johehna and Garlen?" His was the most difficult character to develop, because the initial requirements were for someone who functioned as a straight man for the others. Yet, logically he is actually the story's protagonist, so he required a strong and reasonably colorful personality. I think I have managed to find the combination that will work.

As for Arat (from Undertow) and Wise Snake (from the roleplaying game) the explanation is considerably more simple: Both of them were relatively unassuming low-impact characters to begin with. Arat was to be a rich, self-centered boy, and Snake a street urchin who turned out to be a 3rd order channel. They both became deranged when other people turned them into Farrises! It's amazing how sudden and unexpected Farris-ness can turn a perfectly ordinary character with an unusual background into a warped mofo.

By Zoe on Tuesday, March 28, 2000 - 6:18 pm: Edit Post

I finally got the chance, and time to read Vale.
What a sence of despair you have created. The
descriptions and the characters are clear, and
very unique. I have read it twice, and will no
doubt read it again before too long. I can't wait
to get to lmow these characters more. Thanks for
sharing this moving story.

By fishydu on Monday, June 5, 2000 - 9:54 pm: Edit Post

Painting pictures with words...that's what it's all about! And it's wonderful.

By Kaas Baichtal on Thursday, March 14, 2002 - 8:58 pm: Edit Post

OK... after a year of screwing with this I think it's as good as it's going to get.

Vale of Tears Chapter 2: May is now online.

Large amounts of thoughtful, juicy and (heh heh) mainly positive feedback will greatly accelerate the production of Chapter 3. Really!

By Mary Lou on Friday, March 15, 2002 - 9:06 am: Edit Post

Well, Kaas, I've been wondering for years now how you were going to make a Narosian fit into the high-entropy environment of Vale. The ones in the game have all been almost orgasmic creators. (OK, in at least one well-documented case, orgasmic creativity is well documented as well.) But I can believe that Tomas managed to throw it all away for an obsession.

You didn't go too far with his degeneration, though. I liked the way he went through town, reflexively considering exactly what has to be done to revive the town and make it safe and productive. Not all the Narosian has been beaten out of him by harsh reality: it's just been set aside by the obsession.

I liked your descriptions of life at Naros, particularly of the seductive nature of its Sectuib. The hint of steel that's so well covered by the veneer of civilization that it's almost forgotten is a nice touch. One has to hope that Tomas, also, has enough steel to survive actually meeting his dream.

I was a bit disappointed that this chapter didn't take him as far as Garlen's Householding, but I'm sure that will come in Chapter 3 or so. Which will be posted _before_ 2003, right? Right???

By Kaas Baichtal on Friday, March 15, 2002 - 2:18 pm: Edit Post

Mmmm.... well... no promises ;-) BTW chapter 3 is from Desirey's POV.

A couple of notes on this chapter:

1) The name "Rayane" (ray-ain) is unfortunately close to the name of one of Eileen's characters (Rayne). I struggled with this for weeks, trying to substitute other names. But it's amazing how hard a 4- or 5-year-old character clings to his name. I finally just gave up. I know it looks like I copycatted Eileen and that sucks.

2) The term "mother's helper" in reference to Garlenist Gens was coined by D. Yon in the game. I don't remember which of her characters it was though, maybe Alain Ro.

By bae on Tuesday, March 19, 2002 - 8:48 pm: Edit Post

I really enjoyed the descriptions of nature and the
beautiful names of the wild plants. Your description of this thinly popualted no-man's-land between Sime and Gen Territories, with Sime settlements and isolated, hidden
Gen settlements was fascinating.

I, too, am looking forward to seeing what happens when
Tomas, whose only knowledge of Garlenism comes from
his mother's book, her last act, rumors and anecdotes
meets Garlen and his flock in the flesh.

By Eileen on Tuesday, March 26, 2002 - 12:48 am: Edit Post

Wow, what an atmospheric piece! I loved the insertion of the bits of nature lore into the narrative... the whole thing had a kind of dreamy feel to it. Even though I am eagerly awaiting to see how things will come out in "Undertow", I did not mind that you took a detour to work on this. Now I want to know how this one turns out too . Well, I guess waiting is part of the fun (or so I try and tell myself)... at the risk of being a me-too, MORE PLEASE!

I smiled when I saw your comment about the similarity in character names... it's just the kind of thing I worry about, too, but shouldn't. I'll bet absolutely *nobody* read the chapter and thought "oh, she borrowed that name"-- I certainly didn't! ;-)

By Jocelyn on Thursday, April 18, 2002 - 6:52 pm: Edit Post

Hi Kaas,

Things have been insane 'round my way but I finally finished reading "May". There were times when I thought I wouldn't get done before May with all the RL interruption!

Wow!! I love the feel of this chapter. It give just enough information to make Tomas real and interesting and still give the feeling that there is so much more under the surface! I could very literally see the Vale through his eyes and feel the compulsion that draws him onward even in those times when he was mindlessly merely surviving.

Okay, just one question, why were you sitting on this? I can't think of a single thing this piece needed. It is complete in itself and it makes an absolutely stunning teaser! You just like torturing us poor fans don't ya?

Beautifully drawn. Marvelously told! If you want more than this from your writing you exist on a higher plane than I.

Please don't stop there! I want the rest of this!


By Kaas Baichtal on Thursday, April 18, 2002 - 8:55 pm: Edit Post

Thanks for your comments!

Regarding why I was sitting on it... I had really wanted to do a much more extensive scene with Tomas' interaction with the villagers. I wanted him to spend several hours there and I wanted his past and his motivations to be brought out there. Also I wanted his transition from "mountain thinking" to "human thinking" to be more of a struggle, and for him to wait for quite a while on the ridge thinking about stuff before descending into the valley. When I ended up handling the village scene the way I did, the other scene took care of itself since that transition was no longer necessary. I guess I'm OK with it the way it is now. It would have been hard to do what I originally planned and still preserve the atmosphere of the first chapter which is why I was stuck so long. BTW is down so if anyone wants to email me, please use my AOL address.

By Kaas Baichtal on Thursday, April 18, 2002 - 8:56 pm: Edit Post

~!@@#$$#@ hackers!

By Kaas Baichtal on Saturday, April 20, 2002 - 5:11 pm: Edit Post

I think I finally managed to get that ironed out BTW. I hate hackers and spammers.

By Jocelyn on Sunday, April 21, 2002 - 12:33 pm: Edit Post

Hail to thee, Trojan Slayer, righter of wrongs and
fixer of messes made by verminous hacker scum.


By Kaas Baichtal on Sunday, April 21, 2002 - 6:21 pm: Edit Post


By Kaas Baichtal on Sunday, May 12, 2002 - 11:47 am: Edit Post

Someone asked me the other day why I gave Johehna facial hair. I guess it's because I don't like to think of Gens as being Ancients. I think of them as being their own mutation, just like Simes. So when hearing the stereotyped description of Gens -- big, fat, big muscles, hairy, clumsy, hungry -- I picture them being that way compared to Ancients too, not just compared to Simes. To me, Johehna's face hairs (which by the way this is not that uncommon in Ancient times either!) are her badge of adulthood just as Chep's are for him. It's something to be proud of at least until she's old enough that no one would mistake her for a kid.

By Kaas Baichtal on Wednesday, July 3, 2002 - 11:50 am: Edit Post

Believe it or not... Vale Chapter 3 is posted. It is from the POV of Desirey, the Sime trapped in the barn. It covers Johehna's leaving to follow Tomas. You also get to see the Vale from this third perspective which is quite different from Johehna's or Tomas'.

I know someone is going to ask about the effects of having decaying bodies lying about on her post-kill heightened senses. I tried to work that in but was never able to figure out a way to do it without giving the reader a brutal turn-off rather early in the chapter, which certainly doesn't move ahead my aims ;-) Just assume she did her best to bury the bodies ASAP and is obsessed with more pleasant sensory input partly in reaction.

By cherylwolverton on Thursday, August 15, 2002 - 10:15 pm: Edit Post

wow and here i was going to comment...but look at all the notes already!

nuff said


By Jocelyn on Saturday, August 24, 2002 - 9:30 pm: Edit Post

Raw!    I don't mean as in unfinished, I mean as in nothing stands between me and the emotion, between me and the place, between me and Desirey.

You have a rare gift for allowing the reader to get all the way into the story not just skimming the surface of the words.    Marvelous!!

Even though I'm snowed under at the moment and unable to do the reading that I want to do my greedy little heart can't wait for the next installment!    More PLEASE!!!

@> ,-`

By Kaas Baichtal on Thursday, March 4, 2004 - 10:56 am: Edit Post

Not sure if anybody besides Jocelyn was waiting for this, but here goes. Chapter 4: July

By Kaires on Friday, March 5, 2004 - 1:26 am: Edit Post

It's great finally seeing Garlen.

I've heard little tantalizing bits about him for a long time, but this is the first time he actually appeared in print...that I know of.
(Is he in any other stories I can read?)

This is the best yet of this series. All the segments are compelling. This one spoke to me, though, more than the other parts. Thank you!

By Kaas Baichtal on Friday, March 5, 2004 - 8:39 am: Edit Post

Thanks! :-) Garlen is also in Ruthless which is set in his boyhood.

By Kaas Baichtal on Friday, March 5, 2004 - 9:14 am: Edit Post

Oh, and in Doves+Wolves, which is set somewhere between the two and is about a special-case Garlenist who is related to someone else we know :)

By Kaires on Saturday, March 6, 2004 - 9:28 am: Edit Post

Oh, Wow! I hadn't seen 'Doves+Wolves' before. How absolutely marvelous!

I knew Arat had killed at changeover, and that it was one of the family servants, but...

Oh, Wow!

Neat, neat, neat, neat...

By Eliza on Tuesday, March 16, 2004 - 1:12 am: Edit Post

Does he die? I want to know! Damn this, I can't sit by and watch a Channel die of attrition! What sort of companion do you think I am? You can't stop this here!

By Eileen on Wednesday, March 17, 2004 - 5:29 am: Edit Post

I enjoyed the latest segment very much but share your frustration, Eliza... it mostly just left me wanting to know what happens next! Ruthless amd Doves and Wolves are two of my favorite S~G stories, but not being into the online RPG thing I feel like I don't know as much as some of you about this particular character. Just fascinating bits and glimpses. However... it does look like Garlen might have an alternative. His rule is that outsiders who find his household must die, one way or another... yet he doesn't apply this rule in the case of this stray companion. He knows it wouldn't be impossible to arrange the man's death... just tell one of his Gen followers to shoot the guy in the head when there are no Simes around. But he can't bring himself to do it. I wonder if his decision would have been the same if his own companion were safe at home...?

By Jocelyn on Saturday, March 27, 2004 - 6:02 pm: Edit Post


Thank you, thank you, thank you!! I was waiting for the next installment of Vale! The characters you draw are so rich and you do it with such economy. Clean strokes! I also have to restate how much I am enjoying the pure sense of place that you bring to the Vale. I feel the place and the people and their view of the world. As always beautifully done!!


By Mary Lou on Tuesday, April 6, 2004 - 5:28 pm: Edit Post

This is definately the strongest chapter yet. It's nice to get
a fuller description of Garlen and Fior than occurred in the
other two stories. I hadn't realized that Garlen was so old
in VALE, or that Fior had lasted under his rule for what,
about three normal generations? Maybe even more, since
generation time would be minimal in the larger junct and
Gen societies, and even more so in Fior, which doesn't
seem to keep most of its people around long enough to
start families.

Well done!

By Kaas Baichtal on Saturday, December 24, 2005 - 6:54 pm: Edit Post

August is almost done. It's from Johehna's point of view and we get another, very brief, look at Garlen as well.

By Jocelyn on Tuesday, December 27, 2005 - 11:28 pm: Edit Post

Woohoo!!! Can't wait!

* *

By Kaas Baichtal on Friday, March 31, 2006 - 6:04 pm: Edit Post

The Secret Pens has an anonymous benefactor who donates every month, and each month there is a small note of one kind or another attached. This month's note mentioned the August chapter of Vale and wondered when it'd be done since I did say it was almost done in December... hehe... er....

It's very, very close now. I am wrestling with a couple particularly tricky paragraphs and that's all that's left. Really! :-P

By Kaas Baichtal on Tuesday, April 11, 2006 - 3:54 pm: Edit Post

August is done. Give me a few hours to get it formatted and such and I should be able to post it later today.

By Kaas Baichtal on Wednesday, April 12, 2006 - 10:15 pm: Edit Post

August is posted. Hmm... only 2 years and 1 month for this one.

By Eileen on Friday, April 14, 2006 - 12:28 am: Edit Post

Wow! Beautiful. Lyrical, atmospheric, intriguing... not very long though. I hope it will not be another 2 years before finding out what happens next?

By Ducks on Monday, April 17, 2006 - 2:55 pm: Edit Post

Worth the wait. The suspense continues to build.

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