Okay, so, this weekend I had a satisfying time going through this whole manuscript with everyone’s comments and critiques in mind. I’m glad to say that the story has gotten a pretty enthusiastic thumbs up from everyone who’s read it so far. The three readers all commented on and emphasized different things, as is, of course, always the case.
Kim asked me to better clarify the different kinds of marriage recognized by the Lau. This was tricky. It’s all pretty well defined in my head, but it’s always difficult to have characters think explicitly about things everyone knows. I hope the story includes enough to satisfy readers who are curious about this. I don’t think there’s enough to bore readers who don’t care.
Kim also suggested a couple of REALLY OBVIOUS changes to where I’d made chapter breaks. Her suggestions were completely correct and work much better than where I’d put those breaks initially. Revising those breaks took longer than everything else put together, but the effort was very much worthwhile.
Mary Beth made me understand some things about the deeper narrative structure that I hadn’t clearly conceptualized, which was very helpful. Sometimes I’m amazed what I can miss while writing a novel.
Sharon Shinn told me she loved it, but hello, maybe I should add a kiss. So I did. I just sent her that scene to see what she thinks, but probably the finished version is going to include that kiss. I think (not completely sure) that this is the first on-camera kiss I’ve ever put in a book. It’s still barely there, but yeah, it’s there.
Anyway! I’m pretty sure this is the final version, or as nearly as makes no difference. It’s a bit longer now — 98,000 words or so, plus I’ve added the first fifteen pages or thereabouts from Tasmakat. That part may change before January, but I’m pretty happy with that scene as it stands.
The story is certainly going to remain fundamentally in the braided narrative format, with a backstory narrative alternating with the present-day narrative. Although Lalani plays a large role, her presence is reduced as the story continues and as we see what else about Esau’s backstory, what other relationships, have caused him to become the man he is and why he and Keraunani are right for each other. Although the romantic element is certainly present, I think those of you who like an adventurous story will be quite pleased with this book. I certainly am. Honestly, this was tremendous fun to write.
The chapters do strictly alternate, so that should be clear, but I’m aware that this kind of narrative structure can still be disorienting to the reader. I’ve changed the backstory narrative to a different font, which I hope will help orient readers as they turn pages. I think everyone will certainly turn pages, often in a hurry. I’m definitely chortling as I envision you all hitting some of the chapter breaks — I hope you find those breaks more fun than frustrating — anyway, you all know that this story is fun, not tragic, which ought to help when I occasionally break a scene in the middle of the action.
Several people have asked me whether I wrote this book from front to back. That’s a very reasonable question considering the format. The answer is No. I wrote chapter 1, chapter 2, then most of the backstory narrative, then stepped back and wrote most of the present-day narrative, then rearranged where chapter breaks took place and fiddled around with making the backstory more clearly support the present-day narrative. Then I wrote most of the last chapter, paused, and finally wrote that last scene. It was not exactly difficult, but it was intense in a different way than, say, the bandit scene.
Things that still need to happen:
1) I’m going to drop this into KDP, get a review copy, let my dad read it for fun, ask my mother to read it for typos, and fix whatever she finds.
2) Then I’m going to correct those typos, get another review copy, and go over it in paper myself with a fine-toothed comb.
3) After THAT, I will ask some of you to read through the manuscript for any remaining typos, which, see above, ought to be in short supply by that time.
4) If the cover artist can guarantee me a cover in January, I’ll see if I can put the book up for preorder with a blank or fake cover.
The animal on the cover is going to be a falcon, by the way. That will work. I mean, I deliberately tweaked the story to make sure it would work, and it will. It’ll be something like a prairie falcon — definitely not a falcon that is obviously male, such as a male kestrel.
Below, the first page or so of Keraunani.
Esau rode into Pitasosa alone, on a bay gelding, with a pretty black mare on a lead rein. He wore the uniform and the weapons and the attitude of a professional soldier, which he was; and the badge of a commander, which might overstate his rank by just a bit; and the colors of the new lord of Lorellan, to which he was not remotely entitled.
The new lord of the county, Barent Rava Picat, had been a provincial magistrate in some county way south, then later taken an appointment as a lord magistrate of the king’s court in Avaras. Picat wasn’t exactly nobly-born, but he shared about three drops of blood with the king, being some kind of distant cousin’s by-blow on the wrong side of the bed. One or another of his various qualifications had led Soretes Aman Shavet, Regat Sul, king of the summer country, to hand him the county of Lorellan when the king declared every member of the previous lord’s family attainted and vacated the title. Hard on the family, but a lot of ’em had wound up thoroughly enthralled, and the king, reasonably enough, didn’t trust any of them with the job of hammering the county back into good shape and good sense.
Esau had twice gotten a chance to look over the new lord, when Lord Gaur had met with him, sorting out one thing and another. Barent Rava Picat had impressed him as a hard-eyed, cold-mannered, sharp-witted man who wasn’t likely to miss much and was even less likely to put up with any kind of nonsense. Esau didn’t intend to encounter him on this visit. Definitely not while wearing his colors. That would be awkward.
No real chance of that, though. The new Lord Lorellan was not in Pitasosa. He was in Tarasan, the capital of the county, deeply engaged with sorting out ten thousand problems which the previous lord had left behind when he’d enthralled a few thousand people and made a bid for the crown. That kind of gods-hated mess would probably take forty years to put right. There was a job Esau was glad enough to leave to someone else.
His own job was simple: Get to Pitasosa, find a girl, get her out of this town and away from the disaster that was about to come down like a big, big hammer on way too many people here. Marry her real quick, nice and tight and legal, so there’d be no questions later about the babe she was carrying. Then he could just set her up someplace where she’d be safe and comfortable, and he’d be done.
It was a lot of trouble to go to for one girl and her brat, that was his personal opinion, but from time to time Esau had gone to considerably more trouble for a lot less reason. He figured the whole thing ought to take less than a month, counting travel time, and then he’d wind up with a solid tickmark on the good deed side of the ledger and a very nice bonus for the successful completion of an independent mission. He’d also wind up with a wife, sure, but as long as she had a thimbleful of common sense, there was no reason either of them should be any particular inconvenience for the other. …
As I’m sure you realize, Esau’s blasé attitude about this mission is rapidly shown to be deeply mistaken.