Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Finished! Again! For a while…

So, YAY, just sent off The Dark Turn of Winter to my editor. Though I’ve revised the book twice now, this will actually be Navah’s first look at the manuscript, always a nervous time for a writer. Caitlin really likes this one and talked it up and I hope Navah feels the same way, but doesn’t have super-exaggerated expectations . . . like I said, a nervous time.

Anyway, I have posted a lot of novel beginnings recently, so I thought I would post the beginning of Dark Turn. But which beginning? There is a prologue . . . very short! For all I know it will not appear in the finished version! But at the moment there is a prologue.

In general, when posting the beginning lines of a novel, I skip prologues — unless the prologue is very long and thus acts as the first chapter; or is particularly interesting in some way, like the prologue in Beauty Queens by Libba Bray. Still, the prologue is always the first part the reader sees. Unless the reader is someone who automatically skips prologues. Which I don’t personally recommend; imo if the writer is good, the prologue will be good; and if the prologue is deeply boring and/or completely unimportant, then the rest of the book isn’t likely to be very good either.

So, post a snippet from the prologue? Or from the first chapter? And, you know, Chapter One is from the pov of one primary protagonist, while Chapter Two switches to the pov of the other primary protagonist. There are four pov characters, btw, and as a result the book is quite long; one of the few I’ve written that I think might be justifiably called epic fantasy. Again, many things including the length are subject to change depending on my editor’s take on the book. Still, long. My average length is 120,000 words and this one is 184,000 (and its top length before the final cut was a whopping 197,000 words).

Anyway, here’s what I’m going to do: a snippet from the prologue and from each of the first two chapters. See what you think!

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Prologue

Jeneil inè Suon was a beautiful girl. Her beauty did not serve her well: not as a child in her father’s house and not in her youth and certainly not when, as a woman grown, she caught the eye of Iheraïn terè Iönei Eänetaì. The Iron Duke, the Wolf Duke, the Black Duke: Iheraïn Eänetaì, possibly the cruelest of all the lords of Pohorir. For generations a savage disposition had echoed back and forth between the Dukes of Eäneté and their Immanent Power, until cruelty no less than molten fire burned beneath the stone of the province’s mountains.

Don’t get attached. Janeil dies in three pages and we leap ahead twenty years.

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Chapter 1

When he was fourteen, Innisth terè Maèr Eänetaì tried for the first time to kill his father. He did not succeed. He found out instead something that he should have realized beforehand: that the Immanent Power of Eäneté protected its master from any ordinary attack. Even an unexpected attack. Even an attack by the heir. Innisth also learned that it is a great deal easier and less painful to discover such things through logic than through trial and error. Both lessons proved useful, in time.

Innisth survived his father’s punishment, and the subsequent years of his youth. When he was twenty, he tried again to murder his father. This time he succeeded. This time he thought out his plan with cold deliberation, and, when the opportunity presented itself, on the twenty-eighth day of the Month of Wolves, he seized his chance.

Innisth is Jeneil’s son, of course. This chapter, which I really love and I trust you will eventually see in essentially its current form, takes place seven years before the real opening of the story and thus could be seen as a second prologue.

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Chapter 2

The sixteenth day of Fire Maple Month offered a bright and pleasant autumn morning, here in the garden of the house of Liyè Cemeraiän, Lord of Cemerè, where Kehera irinè Elin Raëhema kept company with Soë Cemeraiän while they both waited for day’s end. The breeze was soft and warm, wisps of cloud chased one another through the brilliant sky, and, from the garden, the fighting along the river was only barely audible.

Lotsa names, I realize. Honestly, each chapter gives you a chance to get used to the important names before moving on.

When I wrote The Keeper of the Mist, I was still recovering from certain readers’ inexplicable distaste for complicated names. Hence the very short and extremely pronounceable names in that book.

By the time I wrote Dark Turn, I had recovered, as you can see. Also I had discovered the keyboard shortcuts for accent marks, which are very cool. However, the naming conventions in Dark Turn are not as complicated as they may look at first glance. Also, I will provide a pronunciation guide if Navah thinks that would be a good idea, though as always I don’t care a bit how readers pronounce the names.

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Seasons in the world of Dark Turn

I thought you might all be interested in where the idea of hinges and iron hinges and so on came from, back when I was soliciting advice on the title, so let me add that Caitlin found the timing of events confusing, so I added months by name and poured all the action toward midwinter; that is, the winter solstice, our December 21st, which is the end of the year in Dark Turn.

You know how we alternate months with 30 and 31 days and then fiddle around with leap years. Well, that is kind of sloppy, especially if you’re the sort of person whose memory runs more to: 30 days hath September, all the rest I can’t remember.

So, in the world of The Dark Turn of Winter, every month is 30 days long, but there are two “hinges” in the year: periods of approximately four days that aren’t counted as exactly part of any month, centered around the solstices. The Golden Hinge of the year is a lucky (if somewhat risky) time centered around (obviously) our June 21st. Particularly daring couples get married during the Golden Hinge Month.

Obviously, then, the Iron Hinge of the year is centered around the winter solstice. The whole Iron Hinge month is considered unlucky, and the Iron Hinge days are actually and definitely VERY unlucky, as the storms that come down across the land at that time are not your typical blizzard. Monstrous winter dragons ride the black winds of those storms, and all ordinary creatures take shelter until the year turns . . .

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7 Comments Finished! Again! For a while…

  1. Mary Beth

    I love your complex names, though I rarely ever try to pronounce them–but they just LOOK so pretty. (And fortunately you usually give us a shortened form for everyday use, like Innisth from Innisth terè Maèr Eänetaì. I’m fascinated by his parricide already. And by the Iron Hinge winter dragons!) Looking forward to this one!

  2. Katie Patchell

    So excited! I love everything, and have already been sucked into the story…all from 3 paragraph snippets and an explanation of the Hinges… *sigh* How long do we have to wait for this book to come out again? Also, thanks for recovering on the name thing! I always love the long names you choose–very lyrical. They roll off the tongue, which is why they’re some of the only character names I actually read out loud.

  3. Rachel

    I’m always pleased to have an up-vote for interesting, complicated names! Katie, I subvocalize when I read, so I do try to have names that roll off the tongue. And Mary Beth, I ALWAYS try to make those names look pretty on the page — that trumps even the sound of the word for me.

    Let’s see, um, Dark Turn will come out November 2017, barring acts of God. A long time, I know!

  4. JJ

    The story looks interesting.

    I’m one of those who has a hard time with the names :( because I read them in my head and get stuck- but I’ll read it anyway or give them nicknames ;)

  5. Rachel

    I try to start every important character’s name with a different letter — that should help with quick recognition of who’s who even if the full name doesn’t really work for you. I hope!

  6. Elaine T

    I usually subvocalize (if it’s a long name, the first half) so I appreciate somewhat pronounceable names. i also appreciate it when writers make sure names don’t all start with the same few letters.

    This sounds very interesting and rather darker than most of your other work. I imprinted on the Greeks’ take on parricide, you see. Any Furies equivalents in the offing? OTOH, it sounds likely that the guy needed killing.

    I found all three snippets enticing and look forward to reading the whole thing eventually.

  7. Kim Aippersbach

    Love the explanation of the year’s hinges. I’m very intrigued. I think I’m going to like Innisth a lot—hope you don’t kill him off too quickly!

    Long, complicated names only work for me if they’re essential to the world-building. In Sherwood Smith’s Inda series, for example, it’s a bit awkward at first as you try to sort out who everyone is, but eventually you figure it out, and then when you hear new names you know what they mean because you understand the naming conventions, so you end up feeling like an insider.

    Multi-syllabic names with accents trip me up because I read in chunks of text, not words, and they make me have to slow down and sound out syllables, which is annoying. I tend to skip names at the beginning of a novel until i figure out who is important; only then will I go to the trouble of figuring out what their name actually is. So shorter nicknames—with different first letters!—are very helpful to me!

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