And the fifth chapter of Sand and Ash is now available.

Chapter 5: Leaving the Cave

This chapter is where I realized something about the culture I was creating. It happened about the same time as I read an article about the differences of wait staff at hotels in Japan verses the United States. One of the biggest thing is when a tourist decides to go some place the concierge doesn't think is the best idea in the world.

In the United States, you'd probably hear "that isn't a good idea, sir, I heard there are problems there."

In Japan, from my understanding, it would be closer to "that is a very long drive, wouldn't it be better to consider something closer?" I don't exactly remember the article, but it was the non-forward nature of that culture that appealed to me.

While I was writing this chapter, I realized that the clan is subtle. They don't tell you that you are wearing necklace when no one else does, or that your ten-year crush on a clan of the night is unwelcomed, they try to subtly guide you to realize that.

It was interesting though. When I look back at Sand and Blood, I see that very thing in the first few chapters. I didn't intend it, but when Gemènyo talks to Rutejìmo, he doesn't come out and say "you are about to go on a brutal journey to test your character, and if you fail, we're going to kill you." Instead, he tries to guide Rutejìmo into trying hard, not picking a fight, and accept that he's never going to be a warrior. There are others who do the same thing, such as when Desòchu tells Rutejìmo not to get revenge.

A lot of that ties into something Pidòhu said in Sand and Blood: being aware of something makes it harder to experience it. You can't really tell someone about some significant event in their live, such as the feeling when you first hold a book you published or watching your child be born (even if I'm never allowed to speak at a birthing again). But, when you are describing it to someone who has seen it, they can just nod and go "yeah, I know what you mean."

In many ways, magic is subtle but also refined. The culture is brutal for many reasons, but they know how to produce powerful magic. This is in contrast to my forensic mage series where the magic is weak but very controlled.

Speaking of being subtle, Chimípu's actions in this chapter are in contrast with that ideal. She flat out says, "get out of your cave," but a lot has happened between these two books that lets her say that. She's become the elder sibling that Rutejìmo didn't have; more importantly, she understands that Rutejìmo struggles with the subtlety of his own culture.

A lot of this book is modeled after my own struggles, including getting those little clues about someone's mood or attitude. I'm sure this idea of being subtle will come up a few times in the coming weeks.