Finished, for sure this time

So, I think this year’s extraordinary weirdness means that NY publishers are probably pretty distracted.

Also, for all I know people are possibly increasing their online book purchases.

Also, my agent did say that she felt Tuyo might have trouble appealing to editors for various reasons.

So, I’ve decided to go ahead and self publish it. I sent my agent an email to that effect last week. Who knows, maybe I’ll just go ahead and self publish a bunch of stuff and also force myself to look at marketing things for a minimum of half an hour a day. Surely I can stand it for half an hour a day. The biology class is moderately under control at this point, so that’s helpful. I may try for another collection of novellas, too, considering that to get myself off biology and back into writing, I wrote 50 pages of a Tuyo-adjacent novella over Easter weekend.

(Happy Easter, by the way! This was such a non-Eastery Easter that I had trouble remembering it WAS Easter. I did go over to my parent’s home for Easter dinner. Cautiously. But I went.)

Anyway, I’ll be talking to cover artists and/or exploring the mad, mad world of cover design — you know there are ALL THOSE paintings and stuff that have thrown open for public use now. We’ll see about that.

I would also like a couple of people to read for typos. Would anybody care to get a chance to read the manuscript at once in return for proof-reading?

Also, titles. Please chime in:

A Brightness of Winter’s Moon

A Bright Winter Moon

Sing to the Moon

On the Other Shore

Across the River

To Cross a Different River

The Other Side of the River

I realize most of you haven’t read this one. But do any titles above seem pretty good to you, or should I throw them all back and try again?

Following is a snippet from the beginning of what still at this point carries the working title of TUYO. This is quite similar to the original beginning, but it has been revised a trifle.


            Beside the coals of the dying fire, within the trampled borders of our abandoned camp, surrounded by the great forest of the winter country, I waited for a terrible death.

            I had been waiting since midday. Before long, dusk would fold itself across the land. The Lau must surely come soon. I faced south, so that my death would not ride up behind me on his tall horse and see my back and think that I was afraid to face him. Also, I did not want to look north because I did not want to see that trodden snow and remember my brother leaving me behind. That might have been a different kind of cowardice. But I could only face one direction. So I faced south.

            The fire burned low. My brother had built it up with his own hands before he led our defeated warriors away. Now it was only embers, and the cold pressed against my back. I wished I could build the fire up again. Mostly that was what I thought about. That was as close to thinking about nothing as I could come. It was better than thinking about the Lau. I hoped they came before the fire burned out, or I might freeze to death before they found me. Even an Ugaro will die of the cold eventually, without fire or shelter.

            I tried not to hope that I would die before they found me.

            Then I heard them, the hoofbeats of their horses, and there was no more time for hope. I held very still, though stillness would not protect me now. Nothing would protect me. I was not here to be protected.

            They came riding between the great spruces and firs, tall dark men on tall dark horses, with the Sun device of their banner snapping overhead in the wind. Ten, twenty. Twice twenty. And even this was only the vanguard. I stood up to meet them, raising my hands to show that I was bound to a stake driven into the frozen earth – to show that I was tuyo, left here for them. They looked at me, but they rode past, down the trail my brother and our warriors had left. They rode through the remnants of our camp, around the fire and around me, and a little distance more. At first I thought they meant to leave me to die alone in this place while they went on to pursue a broader vengeance against my people. That would have been a death even more terrible than the one a tuyo should face. But then they came back and circled around me, not many paces away, looking down at me. My relief was so great that for the time it pushed away fear.

            I knew immediately which must be their warleader. My people prefer silver, which is the metal that belongs to the Moon. The Lau mark their warleaders with gold, as befits the people of the Sun. This man had gold thread worked into the collar of his coat and the backs of his gloves and the tops of his boots. He did not carry a sword or any weapon, only a polished black stick as long as a man’s arm, with gold wire spiraling around its length. I had seen illustrations, so after a moment of puzzlement I recognized this as a scepter. This man was not only a warleader, but a scepter-holder, carrying the authority of the summer king. I had not known any such had come to the borderlands. At least my death would come at the hands of a worthy enemy.

            The scepter-holder’s horse was the color the Lau call fire bay and we call blood bay, which is common for their animals and very rare for ours. It was a fine animal. The Lau breed beautiful horses, but they belong to the summer country. They are too long-legged and too thin-skinned for the cold of Ugaro lands.

            Like their horses, the Lau are long-legged and thin-skinned, and they like the cold no better. They are a graceful people, with elegant features and smooth brown skin. Lau men often grow beards, rare for Ugaro men, but they shave them short, just to outline the jaw and mouth. The warleader had a beard like that. He had cut his hair short to match. No Ugaro man would do such a thing; for us, cropped hair is a mark of shame. We tie our hair back or leave it loose, but we do not cut it.

            For a moment, while the warleader gazed down at me, the silence was almost complete. A horse picked up one foot and set it down again, and the wind blew across the snow, and leather creaked as a man shifted his weight in the saddle. Other than that, there was no sound. At last the warleader dismounted. He was far taller than I; even taller than most of his own people. He looked cruel to me, with a hard set to his mouth. I knelt and bowed my head to show the proper respect the one defeated owes to the victor.

            He looked at me and then at one of his people who had come up beside him. He said to that man, “We must have pressed them even harder than we knew, if they’ve left a tuyo for us. I suppose this must be the son of an important Ugaro lord, but he seems merely a boy.”

            I must have jerked in outrage, for he turned quickly to look at me again. I said, speaking carefully in darau, “Lord, I have nineteen winters, so I am not a boy either by your law or ours. You should accept me as tuyo. No one could set any fault against you for it.”

            He tilted his head in surprise, perhaps at my words, or perhaps because I spoke darau at all. He asked, “What is your name? What is your father’s name?”

            I answered, “Lord, it is a son of Sinowa, lord of the inGara, who kneels before you in defeat. My name, if you wish to know it, is Ryo. In leaving me for you, Garoyo, warleader of the inGara, acknowledges defeat. Accept me as tuyo, permit my brother and our warriors to withdraw, and my people will not challenge you again.”

            He nodded. But he said, “I understand that giving you to me constitutes a promise to cease hostilities. I might have trusted the efficacy of that custom when your people raided mine more rarely. Today, I don’t believe I can expect much of a check in your people’s aggression.”

            I could not protest. He was right. The war was too important for the inGara to step away from it. But I said, “Yet my people will not wish to face you a second time, lord, for to do so would be an offense against the gods.My father and my brother will take care to stay out of your way. Is that not enough?” I took a breath, making sure I could speak steadily. Then I said, “Please, lord. Let that be enough. Whatever vengeance you desire for every blow my people have struck against yours, take that vengeance on me and be satisfied.”

            Again a pause stretched out. The warleader looked into the forest, the way my brother had gone. Then he looked around at the long shadows and the deep forest that spread out all around that place. At last he turned back to me. He said, “Well, this is the first time anyone has ever offered me a tuyo. No doubt it will be a novelty.”

            “My lord, surely –” began the soldier beside him, but the warleader lifted his hand and the man fell silent.

            The warleader tucked the scepter under his arm, drew a knife, and stepped toward me. I set my mind at a distance so that I would not disgrace myself or my people by flinching at the first touch of the blade. But he did not begin my death. Instead, he cut the thong that bound me to the stake. So I understood he would take me back into the summer lands and kill me there. It meant he intended to take his vengeance at greater leisure than was possible here in the winter country, but even though I knew I should wish to have my death over and not waiting ahead of me, I could not help but be relieved at any delay.

            He put the knife away and said to the man beside him, “Take him to my tent and hold him there.” Then he walked away.

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19 thoughts on “Finished, for sure this time”

  1. I’d be willing to proofread, if I can do so next weekend. I’m working from home, and after a full day at the keyboard I have to do something different in the evenings.
    Would that be too late for you?

    Regarding titles; as I haven’t read it yet I have no idea which would fit the story best.
    With that caveat, these are my first impressions.

    A Brightness of Winter’s Moon – no, a bit pretentious

    A Bright Winter Moon – nice

    Sing to the Moon – this story is about werewolves; as I don’t expect it is, from the sample, that means no.

    On the Other Shore – nice

    Across the River – nice, has a travelling & exploring vibe

    To Cross a Different River – no, a bit pretentious, same vibe as no.1

    The Other Side of the River – okay, if the river is important

  2. Yeah Easter was weird. Instead of ham we had slow cooker pork butt, with chili verde. I made up the recipe, but later found a somewhat similar braise in Samin Nosrat, so she may have been subconscious inspiration. Either way, it’s a great way to do pork shoulder.

    Thanks so much for the sample. I do look forward to all your books!

  3. Oh, and I can do copy editing–I’ve done it for one novel; not so good at editing fiction otherwise, though.

  4. I would volunteer to copy-edit, but I’ve been having some eye trouble lately and I’m not sure if I could do long enough stretches to get it done on time. However I am SO glad that you’re publishing this book, because I adore it to pieces and I want to push it on all my friends and family.

    I’m not sure any of the titles are really catching me just yet. I might also avoid titles with “Winter” or “Moon” because you already have “Winter of Ice and Iron” and “The White Road of the Moon.” What about “The Hammer of the Gods”?

  5. Kathryn McConaughy

    I agree with Mary Beth about the titles. When I saw your list I immediately thought about White Road of the Moon…
    I’ve read books entitled “Across the River” and “On the Other Shore” before. Not that every title has to be unique. But I wouldn’t see these in a book catalogue and think fantasy.

  6. Thanks for everyone’s feedback on the titles. I’m not crazy about anything I suggested, but I hadn’t thought of how similar to various other titles of mine some of these are. You are right: that’s not a good idea.

    Mary Beth, your suggestion is great! I may go with that.

    There is no real rush about the proofreading. I’ll have to deal with the cover too, after all.

  7. Lovely beginning. Looking forward to the finished product!

    I’m no cover artist, but if you decide to go the second route, an already available painting or image, then I can help with cover design, if you’d like.

  8. I’m really looking forward to it! The snippet really grabs my attention. As an artist, I’m especially interested in what cover you choose.
    Can’t wait!

  9. What about “Tuyo” for the title?

    After all, Brust has “taltos” and other words from his world as titles.

  10. Well, yes, but really I think a more “here is a fantasy novel” title is probably superior, don’t you?

  11. To me, that does signal a probable fantasy, probably because of titles like Brust’s. And it gets away from the winter and moon terms.

    still… (pokes at thesaurus)… Brumal Luna! :-)
    (Wintery moon) Why does that come off like a romance title? I’m horrible at titles, and pet names, but I was serious when I suggested Tuyo.

  12. I haven’t read it yet, but couldn’t resist skimming through parts while setting it up for proofreading (staying at my screen ’til eleven, uh-oh, no-no, wait for the weekend to really start reading!) and that gave me some additional ideas for possible titles without rivers or moons, as those are recurring themes and you can’t name all your books with those.

    – The Borderlands;
    – Sorcerer’s War;
    – I also second Mary Beth’s suggestion of Hammer of the gods;
    – Tuyo.

    On keeping the working title: I don’t generally like one word titles, as I tend to forget them and get confused. But, that is mostly when the title-word is obliquely or obscurely related to what is going on, as with most of CJ Cherryh’s Foreigner series – I can never keep those straight, even though I like the series and own all those books in paper as well as digitally. I had to put numbered stickers on their spines to keep them in order in my bookcase!
    When the word exactly describes the protagonist or situation, I can remember them just fine, and like those titles just fine too. Examples: Stray, Caszandra, Laura, Foreigner (the first book), Hunting.
    When it’s the name of the protagonist, having a somewhat unusual name helps – if I’d read lots of other books in which the protagonist’s name was Laura, and more than one of them used the name for the title, that would be confusing.
    To someone who hasn’t read the book yet, Tuyo looks like an unusual, exotic, name – it signals not to expect a contemporary ordinary life story, which is a good start for a fantasy. Once you’ve read (some of) it, the concept it stands for captures the protagonist’s situation and it serves as a perfect reminder of what and who this book is about.

    I know exactly nothing about marketing or what might sell, so I really couldn’t say whether a word or a phrase is a better way to go for a title, so this is just meant to help spark ideas.

  13. Rachel Neumeier

    Hanneke, thanks. Maybe you and Elaine are both right and I should just stick with the working title after all.

  14. This is a bit late but I like the working title better too. The other ones come off as fiction/literary to me more, which depending on the cover would totally not catch my attention if I wasn’t already familiar with your name. Tuyo is odd enough to possibly clue in as fantasy (although references to magic/gods would also work) and would merit a second look simply to determine what it was about.

  15. Not late at all, Megan. Given all your feedback, I’m now leaning toward leaving the title as TUYO.

  16. I love the word Tuyo and the concept as I understand it from the sample. I would be curious about a book with that title and would guess it was a character name; since it doesn’t immediately sound like any language I’m familiar with, I would lean toward thinking it fantasy. (Is there a second word you could modify it with to tweak our curiosity more?)

    If you’re still looking for proofreaders, I would be delighted to offer my eyes. I am an editor, if that helps.

  17. Excited to hear about any new publications from you. Available for proofreading if you need anyone else.

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