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Oh, btw, book sale —

Starting Monday the 26th, Strange Chemistry is dropping the e-book prices of their first seven titles to celebrate the imprint’s birthday.

I’ll need to check my Kindle to see which of these I already have.

Not sure how long this sale will last, but hopefully long enough for you all to pick up a couple of titles if you like.

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YA is better than you think! But do we need it as a category?

I’m already on record as declaring that the quality of YA is, if anything, higher these days than adult SFF. And I know some of you feel the same way and probably most of you read both YA and adult SFF without making much of a distinction, same as I do.

So to you this “YA is actually pretty good!” idea is not a revelation.

But some people are only now finding this out. Which is the point of this article, which I found because of a twitter link, thank you twitter!

From the article, by Marisa Reichardt, “One of my biggest pet peeves is when Goodreads reviewers say things like, “I liked this book even though it was YA” — as if reading a YA book was a guilty pleasure.”

Which is actually not a phrase I’ve ever seen, as far as I can remember. How surprising it is to me that anyone still feels that way — like YA is for kids and adults should be embarrassed about reading it. I sort of feel it’s the other way around: I sort of think the YA category should be ditched, because it’s so plain that a lot of it is aimed at, or at least perfectly suitable for, adult readers.

I’ve been reading long enough that plenty of the books I remember finding in the ordinary SFF section would now without question be shelved in YA. Plus, these days, it seems like if a book has a young female protagonist, it’s going to be marketed as YA even if it is really not aimed at the teen audience.

Plus, aiming kids at YA as though they are OF COURSE not going to be the least bit interested in, say, a middle-aged woman protagonist? That is just wrong. It’s wrong because it’s wrong — I loved the Mrs Pollifax series when I was a kid, didn’t you? — but it’s also wrong because it’s misguided.

Separating YA from adult fiction encourages kids to believe their experience of life is so different from the adult experience that they won’t be able to relate to an older protagonist, and hello? Wouldn’t it make more sense to offer a multitude of coherent views of people who are NOT “just like me”? Exactly the way we want to encourage kids to read about protagonists who are diverse in other ways? I should think it is actually PARTICULARLY valuable to encourage kids to read about people in later stages of life, so they have more ways to think about what it’s like to be an adult.

And, yeah, turning that back around, there is certainly no reason to pretend that adults shouldn’t be interested in tightly plotted well-written coming-of-age stories. Last I noticed, every single adult in the world was once a kid; it’s not like the experience is totally alien. Plus, honestly, don’t almost all adults feel like they’re just pretending to be all grown up?

YA is going to continue to be a separate category simply because it’s a marketing tactic that works. But there’s no reason the rest of us outside of marketing departments should take that separation seriously.

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Lake Missoula, and related topics

So a couple of days ago, somehow the big ice-age floods came up in conversation, but I didn’t remember the details, just that a lot of glacial meltwater backed up behind a huge ice dam, which broke, loosing an unbelievable flood across the western US.

Well, guess what Kim Stanley Robinson refers to briefly in RED MARS? Which I have been reading — or skimming would be a more accurate term — because I like the technical descriptions even though I dislike most of the characters, which makes it perfect while I work on my own WIP.

Anyway! Because of this handy coincidence, I was able to look up this great geological moment in US history, so let me pass that on to you.

Try to visualize this: a lake covering a big chunk of Montana, backed up behind an ice wall 200 feet high. When that dam broke, two trillion cubic meters of water drained west to to Pacific ocean in a matter of days, ten times as much outflow as all the rivers in the world today put together! That massive river ripped right through the basalt bedrock to dig channels 600 feet deep.

Wow. Just wow.

There’s a site here offering details and pictures.

While we’re on the subject of huge floods — did you know that the Med used to be a dry basin? Yep. Geological subsidence in the Straits of Gibralter allowed the Atlantic to flood into the Mediterranean and turn it into a sea, an event which occurred about five million years ago. The whole filling up of the sea is thought to have taken only a few months. Think of that! Wow!

I don’t think it’s possible to really imagine something like that, do you? Although maybe it is, because it’s exactly this kind of description that makes Robinson worth reading. Even though I dislike Maya, and Frank, and John, and actually at least half the point-of-view characters in his Mars trilogy. I like Nadia, though, and Ann is okay, and in the second book we get pov chapters from Sax, I like those. And Nirgel is okay. But, yeah, basically I read Robinson for the geology.

I actually learned about the Med being a salt desert and then filling up from a very different SFF author, Randall Garrett, who in the eighties wrote a series of books called the Gandalara cycle. I read these back then and — sorry for the spoiler, which is unavoidable given the context — thus learned about the history of the Mediterranean, which provides an important plot driver through the whole series, though exactly what’s going on is not revealed till the end.

Though this is important, knowing it will not interfere at all (I think!) with your reading enjoyment of these books, which are quite good, and certainly are not at all focused on geology like KSR. Garrett builds his own prehistoric society down on the salt desert, with considerable attention to detail and good characterization. I really enjoyed this series and have re-read the books several times. In fact, I was just skimming parts of the first book the other day, thinking about the Med and floods, and though it’s hard for me to evaluate a story with which I’m now overfamiliar, I do think this series is well worth looking up. Even the giant telepathic cats are handled in a slightly less wish-fulfillment way than one usually sees with telepathic animals, more like real animals and less like your special magic BFF.

Anybody else remember this series? What did you think?

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Recent listening: a different kind of romance

So on the way to and then back from Chicago, I listened to THE LAST CHINESE CHEF by Nicole Mones, which made an interesting contrast to the Florand romances I’ve been reading recently.

I enjoyed it, but CHEF is definitely more on the literary side of romance. There’s nothing neat or quick about it, and very little pat about the ending. In some ways it barely seems like a romance, but I think that’s just in contrast to, say, Florand.

In CHEF, the main protagonist, Maggie McElroy, is a widow — her husband died a year ago — who is suddenly faced with a surprise: a paternity claim made by a Chinese family against her late husband’s estate.

I think modern American culture devalues grief and really carries a message that if you’re not over bereavement in a month or two, there must be something wrong with you. Of course this is not necessarily the case at all, so I loved Maggie and the way her grief is almost a physical presence in her life, even after a year. Listen to these first paragraphs:

“Maggie McElroy felt her life spiral away from her in the year following her husband’s death: she felt strange wherever she was. She needed walls to hold her. She could not seem to find an apartment small enough. In the end, she moved to a boat.

First she sold their house. It was understandable. Her friends agreed it was the right thing to do. She scaled down to an apartment and quickly found it too big: she needed a cell. She found an even smaller place and reduced her possessions further to move into it. Each cycle of obliteration vented a bit of her grief, but underneath she was propelled by the additional belief, springing not from knowledge but from stubborn instinct, that some part of her soul could be called back if only she could clear the way.”

Nice, eh? And then this paternity claim, out of the blue. A devastating shock, because hadn’t she known her husband after all?

Of course Maggie has to go to China, and there we pick up the other part of the narrative, because she meets the half-American Sam, who traces his ancestry back to great Imperial chefs and has been studying that style of cooking and is now just about to enter a major cooking competition.

And things happen, but slowly, unrolling like a slow river, never pulling the reader into a flooding cascade of events. This is not a thriller, though there are certainly things to worry about, eh? Like, is that little girl really Maggie’s husband’s daughter? And does Maggie want her to be? And if she is, does Maggie want to be tied to the child’s family, to her mother?

And how about that cooking contest, it’s really important to Sam, does he have a chance of winning with the Imperial style of cooking in the face of modernism, not to mention blatant nepotism?

And over and above all that, are Maggie and Sam going to be able to make room for each other in their lives?

A lot of this doesn’t get tied up with a neat little bow for the reader, but enough does that the ending is satisfying. Pretty satisfying, anyway. Enough so that you don’t have to be worried about reading it.

Okay, and? My goodness, the cooking, wow. There are these great little excerpts from a (fictional) book called The Last Chinese Chef, written by Sam’s grandfather. And we get wonderful little asides about Chinese food and Imperial cooking. It all is guaranteed to leave you dying for a trip to China, or failing that, for a taste of real Chinese food.

As it happens, though I can’t imagine making most of the brilliant and beautiful Imperial dishes detailed in this novel, I do have a cookbook by Fushia Dunlop called The Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook, which does in fact refer to many of the same events in Chinese history that we hear about in Mones’ story, and provides very suitable recipes, including one that really is in the Imperial tradition, where you remove the yolks from raw eggs, combine the whites with chicken stock, pipe that mixture back into the shells, and steam the eggs very gently so that you get what looks like yolkless eggs in the shell. (I don’t think I have the patience or nerve to try this, but the recipe is in there.)

So, yeah, now I’m planning to make a lot of Chinese food in the near future. As soon as I start cooking again. Which will not be this week, because I am closing in on the end of my current WIP, which means I am not interested in taking time to do much of anything else, including shop or cook. So right now I’m making extremely fast, easy things that basically require neither, like sauteed cubes of eggplant with harissa (the garden is producing a lot of eggplant).

Should be done with the rough draft by this time next week. I think.

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Great MG books you might like to look up now

If you missed them when you were a kid, I mean.

The Book Smugglers offer this roundup, including recommendations from Heidi of Bunbury in the Stacks, Charlotte of Charlotte’s Library, Angie of Angieville, Elizabeth of A Chair, A Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy, and Ana of Things Mean a Lot.

This post was particularly interesting to me because I follow Bunbury in the Stacks pretty closely, because Charlotte has demonstrated her excellent taste by loving my books, and because Angie introduced me to the work of Sarah Addison Allen, now a favorite author of mine. I don’t always have a lot of interest in MG, but then the exceptions can be very important — Diana Wynne Jones, anyone? — so I definitely don’t want to ignore MG fiction, either. A post like this can be a great way to find some MG stories that might really appeal to older readers.

I loved books like HATCHET when I was a kid, so this is one I might have to look up, especially since Heidi says it falls on the boundary between MG and YA.

I never knew that Mary Stewart had written any kid’s books! I really enjoyed her mysteries, and loved her Arthurian series, so these are stories I definitely want to look up. I am tempted by LUDO AND THE STAR HORSE because, hey, a horse! I was typical in being very into horses as a kid and horse stories still have extra appeal for me. Naturally THE LITTLE WHITE HORSE also sounds like one to look up. Besides the horse stories Charlotte recommends, A STRING IN THE HARP also sounds like one I would enjoy. It’s amazing, but I have never heard of a single book on Charlotte’s list.

Angie also names a horse story: BLOOD RED HORSE. That’s a historical, and since I also love historical settings, this is one I really need to look up. Angie also mentions a title (SEAWARD) by Susan Cooper, whom I loved for THE DARK IS RISING series but whose other books I’ve never read — I have SEAWARD on my wishlist now, though.

Now, Elizabeth is the one who actually includes THE DARK IS RISING on her list, which is a great favorite of mine and makes me admit that okay, I do still love some MG titles. And Ana makes me feel like I just have to try a novel by Hilary McKay. Ana also picks THE TOMBS OF ATUAN, which I loved passionately when I was a kid — now I want to re-read it!

Okay: one title that didn’t appear on any of these lists? Patricia McKillip’s THE HOUSE ON PARCHMENT STREET. I really think it is a great story that has a lot to say about family, and I’m not sure that even every McKillip fan has necessarily read it. It definitely reads young, so I would say it is a MG story.

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Not impressed by Strong Female Characters

Nice article here , by Sophia McDougall, about the Strong Female Character idea.

“Sherlock Holmes gets to be brilliant, solitary, abrasive, Bohemian, whimsical, brave, sad, manipulative, neurotic, vain, untidy, fastidious, artistic, courteous, rude, a polymath genius. Female characters get to be Strong.”

Yeah. I love a great kickass female character like, say, Kate Daniels. But the idea that every paranormal / urban fantasy / YA fantasy / whatever needs this same exact style of witty kickass female protagonist is SO INFURIATING.

That’s one reason I loved, say, Tremaine from The Fall of Ile-Rien trilogy by Martha Wells. Because she’s a complex and interesting female character, not a Strong Female Character.

I really really really want people to quit using the word Strong in this context and start using the word Complex. Because I think using the word Strong really does bias readers and reviewers and everyone to think that kickass female characters with swords / guns / knives / mad martial arts skillz are The Right Kind and other kinds of female characters are Not Strong and Therefore Not As Good. Which is obviously ridiculous.

I don’t necessarily like the use of the word “realistic” either, because I think that in literature there is a feeling that the word “realistic” means “literary” and carries connotations of unpleasant, neurotic, depressed, lonely, bitter — all this baggage, as though only negative qualities are realistic. I don’t know, does anybody feel that way about the word in this connection?

Anyway: “Is Sherlock Holmes strong? It’s not just that the answer is “of course”, it’s that it’s the wrong question.”

Yes yes yes. It IS totally the wrong question. I hereby vow never to use the word “strong” to describe any character again, ever. Or, yes, “feisty”, which sounds condescending to me anyway.

But Kate Daniels really is kickass, though. That’s just an accurate description right there.

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When a favorite author doesn’t work for you —

Spotted this review of Rusalka over at bysinginglight this morning.

Yeah, what she said. I read this book, and part of the second, but I just could not engage with the characters. I don’t remember the books in detail, but I remember that sense of helpless passivity. It’s interesting to think about the feeling of detachment and why it works or doesn’t work in a particular book; I hadn’t thought of CJ Cherryh’s style in those terms before.

The other thing about Rusalka that bothered me was the style of magic — if you wish for something, it might happen, so it’s important not to experience even momentary wishes for bad things — it’s a kind of magic that makes the magic user into almost a victim. Cherryh does something like that in other books as well, (The Goblin Mirror) but for whatever reason, that one worked better for me than Rusalka.

Okay, raising a broader question: sometimes you read fifteen books by one author and love all but one, and when that happens to me, sometimes I can tell why and sometimes I can’t. I actually liked Sharon Shinn’s shapeshifter books, but the protagonist of each is so emotionally overwrought that it’s a near thing; that’s one I can put my finger on. In contrast, Martha Wells’ Emilie and the Hollow World just did not sing for me and I really have no idea why not. Even Patricia McKillip has written one or two books I don’t like — Solstice Wood, for example, where I hated the way she changed the world she had previously established in Winter Rose.

How about you all? Can you think of a time when a favorite author fell flat for you, and could you figure out why?

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Laura Florand: Chocolate Romances and the Craft of Writing

Okay, so we have in this series:

The Chocolate Thief – light, fun, beautifully written, with a poor-little-rich girl protagonist who is neither clichéd nor annoying, but instead a character you can really root for. Plus an arrogant chocolatier, her perfect foil, who is not really all that arrogant – well, he is, but he is also a wonderfully believable and sympathetic protagonist.

The Chocolate Kiss – not quite as light, because Magalie is vulnerable in a way that is actually kind of heartbreaking. Where Thief is basically a comedy, this one is more serious and genuinely touching – though certainly not without humor. I honestly don’t know which book of this series is my favorite, but Magalie is my favorite of the female protagonists.

The Chocolate Rose – am I slow or what? Because I didn’t catch that this story was going to draw on the Beauty-and-the-Beast fairy tale until about the third time Gabriel Delange thinks of himself as a “beast.” After that the shoe finally dropped: A beast, a beautiful girl, her father who steals the rose from the beast, hello. I don’t want to make too much of this, because the fairy tale just echoes gently through The Chocolate Rose, so don’t pick this story up thinking it’s actually a retelling. It’s not. But the fairy tale does add an extra layer – I’m trying not to say it’s the icing on the cake, but I can’t help it; all the beautiful desserts in the story are getting to me.

Let me just add that The Chocolate Rose also has one of my favorite lines ever, because after Jolie has just peeled and sectioned a zillion grapefruit, we get this: “She was not without kitchen skills, not by any means. But the speed, the intensity, the amount of competing motion she had to dodge, and the sheer repetition of task surpassed anything she had ever done before. Jo hated grapefruit. She hadn’t known that before, but not she hated it with a profound and utter passion. Maybe she should give up cookbook writing, become a microbiologist, and create a fungus that would wipe grapefruit trees of the planet.”

People, I laughed out loud. I honestly did.

I also really enjoyed Jolie – because she’s a writer, see, and also because I personally own like a hundred cookbooks and usually read them straight through, like novels, so I can easily imagine the effort that goes into writing a cookbook with a top chef. I enjoyed watching Gabriel struggle with the concept of “recipes a talented amateur could pull off”. I also definitely appreciated how a chef’s crazy hours would be absolutely perfect for a writer who needs a lot of time to herself. As always with Florand, I loved both Jo and Gabriel.

So each of these three books is a little different from the others, and this is true even though you can very definitely tell they’re all by the same author. They all have beautiful characterization and lovely writing and great description and nice, tight plotting, but to me they also seem to be gaining depth as you move through the series, especially if you add Turning Up The Heat, which incidentally is a perfect little gem of a novella.

So, how about Florand’s most recent story, The Chocolate Touch?

I just finished it. And, seriously, it blew me away. If Magalie is my favorite of Florand’s female protagonists, Dom is definitely my favorite of her male protagonists. And I say that as a reader who really enjoys all of Florand’s protagonists in all her books. I think I love best the most damaged protagonists? And Dom definitely carries the most extreme baggage. He carries it very, very well. He knew the value of strength, that was one thing he knew very well. It was to make himself unassailable. And now he would make her unassailable, too. At last somebody needed his strength.

Wow. I fell so hard for Dom, I can’t even tell you.

Anyway, I bookmarked dozens of pages of The Chocolate Touch because I also thought it would be a good book to take apart a little, if you’re in an analytical mood.

Here’s the beginning:

—–

“She’s back.”

Dom straightened from the enormous block of chocolate he was creating, gave his maitresse de salle, Guillemette, a disgruntled look for having realized he would want to know that, and slipped around to the spot in the glass walls where he could get the best view of the salle below.

—–

What I like about this beginning is the disgruntled look for having realized he would want to know that. That’s a really nice phrase. Just right there, it establishes so much about Dom’s character, plus it instantly sketches the minor secondary character, Guillemette.

Now, Dom. He is pretty fabulous. He tries so hard. His background is so awful, and he is so determined to overcome it. I love, love, love his relationship with his employees. You know, they call him “Dom” and address him as “tu”? His interactions with his employees not only drive the plot but serve perfectly to develop Dom’s character: Someone catcalled. Amand gave a long wolf-whistle. “Oh, shut the hell up,” Dom said. He couldn’t entirely suppress a grin, even though he was flushing.

One disappointment for me in this story – I found Dom’s employees so engaging, and their relationship with Dom so charming, that I would have really enjoyed seeing them actually get the news about Jaime asking Dom to marry her. They must have gone nuts and I didn’t get to watch. Well, the author can’t put in everything, I know. But if I wrote fan fiction, I would totally write that scene. And I want to point out that this means that even very minor secondary characters like Guillemette and Célie and Amand felt like real people to me even though we barely glimpse them on stage, which is quite an accomplishment.

Now, Jaime. Jaime is also a great protagonist, and I say this even though I have a low low low tolerance for the sort of person who devotes herself to Saving The World. That’s because it’s pretty plain that actually that sort of thing is often all about First World posturing: Look at me, I’m a Good Person, I Care, never mind that my Cause is poorly thought out and not actually helping anybody – maybe even hurting people. Yeah, excuse me while I roll my eyes, but I’m the sort of person who cares strictly about results and not about how bright and shiny anybody’s intentions might be.

But! In this book, Florand has given Jaime a backstory that involves truly helping real people deal with real abusive practices. She shows the problem, and (extremely important for me) she also shows the results that Jaime was achieving. And Florand does this without preaching and without spending a lot of time developing the issue. And then Jaime’s backstory makes her perfectly suited for Dom. Really nice, and we’re back to a study of characterization and the importance of backstory for motivation.

You can also reach for The Chocolate Touch to look at description and detail and drawing the scene. Like Dom’s rosebud wall, and La Victoire. And like the Eiffel Tower: “He liked the impossible, fantastical strength of [the Eiffel Tower], the way the metal seemed so massive up close. He liked the fact that it had risen above all the complaints and criticism that surrounded its birth and stamped its power not only over the city but the world. He pulled out the little moleskin journal he always carried with him and stood for a long time sketching the curves and angles of the bolts and metal plates, thinking of designs for the surfaces of his chocolates.”

And I want to point out how description also deepens characterization, because nothing is described in isolation – everything is described in terms of the protagonist’s reaction to it – this Eiffel Tower scene is a perfect example. It’s so important to embed your character in the scene that way. Problems with setting the scene have been so noticeable in the workshop entries I’ve seen at conventions.

Florand also has some stylistic tricks that are worth noticing. Like her use of italics to emphasize a particular phrase when we’re seeing a character’s thoughts. I read something somewhere (sorry, no idea where) where an author said something like: emphasis is so personal to the reader, he had all but quit using italics. Well, Florand wouldn’t agree, and I’m glad, because I get a real kick out of her use of italics. Like here:

“How are you?” Dom asked the brunette crisply, trying to make himself seem unavailable without making anyone watching think he was a rude, crude, and socially unacceptable human being who had sex with women whose names he couldn’t remember later and then treated them badly. Everything else might be true, but he did not treat them badly. . . . brushing her off wasn’t going to be that easy to do. Certainly not without giving the definite impression to people who happened to watching that he used women and was heartless to them afterward.

We see both the standard use of italics for emphasis here (not) and the really clever use of italics to add humor to Dom’s self-derisive commentary on the situation. It seems to me Florand mostly uses this technique with her male leads, and I think this might be because they are all extremely arrogant and this self-derisive tone is a way of showing their vulnerability. (I could be totally wrong. It’s not like I’m taking notes every minute, right? I get lost in the story, too, you know. But it does seem to me this is mostly something Florand uses for her male protagonists.) Oh, and let me draw your attention to that crisply and just reiterate that adverbs are not bad, not even in dialogue tags, if you use them well. I know I have said that before.

This scene also shows a really close third-person voice, which is worth noticing because Florand uses this kind of voice to great effect and it is by no means the only choice when using third person. If you use phrases like “It would be difficult, he thought, to get rid of this brunette without appearing rude,” then you are using a much more distant third-person voice. In other words, you can either report on your character’s thoughts and feelings: he thought, he felt, he imagined. Or you can bring the reader directly into your character’s head, in which case you would not use that kind of report, right? You will find that a skilled author moves back and forth in distance as she moves through the narrative, because a really close third-person stance is too exhausting for the reader to keep up for a whole book. Florand uses a lot of close third-person, but even she doesn’t stick to it all the time. I don’t expect she analyzes this (I don’t imagine anybody actually writes so analytically.) It’s something you do by feel. But if you wanted to really study close third person and see how it’s done, these books would be excellent.

So, characterization, scene, style. Dialogue, too. My favorite scene in the whole book may be the one where Dom meets Jaime’s family. I love Dom’s aggression, wow. And I love how he forces himself to acknowledge Sylvain’s kindness to Jaime before he met her, and honestly I just love the way the whole family interacts. Writing a scene with that many characters in it is not easy – in this one, we have Dom, Jaime, Sylvain, Cade, James, and Mack, and they all have to be there through essentially the whole scene. If you have anybody fall silent for three or four paragraphs, the reader can lose track of him and that’s a problem. This is a nice crowd scene, if you would like to take it apart and see how it works. My favorite line in it may be: “I’m begging you, James, stop with the spinach.”

Is this book totally perfect? Well, just about, yes. On the other hand, I’m not going to buy a copy for my mother. She wouldn’t be able to tolerate the occasional English cusswords – I am going to have to look up putain some time – and she, like me, really prefers a discreet veil to be drawn across the bedroom door. For anybody where those aspects aren’t dealbreakers, though – yes, it comes pretty close to perfect.

Laura Florand is definitely on my autobuy list after this year – not just for the Chocolate romances, but for whatever she writes. I’m only sorry I’ve now run out of her entire list, but at least it’s not too long a wait till her next title comes out — she has a novella, “Snow-Kissed” due out in September, and two more Chocolate titles are scheduled for this coming November and January release dates.

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Update: I need one more uninterrupted week

Stuff to do: the rest of the big battle, the disaster — actually we’ve already had that, so I mean the worse disaster — various people heroically saving the day, and (naturally) ultimate victory. Plus the dénouement, which is often my favorite part and I expect that to be the case for PURE MAGIC, too. A lot of that is already written in detail, in my head.

I’m thinking this will all take another fifty-sixty pages. Not sure if I’ve ever learned to judge that kind of thing accurately, though, so it could be a little more (very unlikely to be less). I could easily bring this one in with five or six uninterrupted days, which alas I do not have, so it will take longer and writing it will be both less intense and less fun. : ( But the chance I will get this one in on my personal deadline, just about 100%, yay!

I’m guessing the rough draft will come in at about 110,000 – 115,000 words, which for me is excellent — I may even be able to cut it back to no more than 100,000 words, which would be fabulous. You know, I actually had to ask for the maximum length specified in the contract for BLACK DOG to be extended, because there was no possible way I could have got it under 120,000 words. That may not be such an issue for the sequel!

And if you’re wondering whether I know what I’ll be working on next: Yes. I have a short story to write that takes place before BLACK DOG and another one that takes place after PURE MAGIC — I have no idea why it is that this universe seems to lend itself to short stories, which as you all know I basically never write.

And after that — not sure! But I will have to decide because I read a ton of books while writing PURE MAGIC, way more than usual, so I don’t feel like I need a break and will probably pick up a new project to work on before the end of September, with plans to finish another rough draft by the end of January.

But I will take a little break to read some longer books / series and some titles I have particularly been waiting to get to: Kate Elliot’s Spiritwalker trilogy, UNDER THE LIGHT by Laura Whitcomb, SARAPHINA by Rachel Hartman, CROWN DUEL / COURT DUEL by Sherwood Smith. Really looking forward to it!

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