Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Recent Reading: PROTECTOR

So, just finished PROTECTOR by CJ Cherryh. The Foreigner series is so satisfying, in a slow-paced intellectual way — all complicated politics all the time, convoluted talk-heavy diplomacy occasionally interspersed with attempted assassinations and other violence. Of course, this is the 14th book in the series (the 14th! Wow.), so by now the reader is very, very familiar with all the continuing characters and with the ateva society. We don’t need a fast-paced adventure or a hot love affair to care about what’s going on — if we did, we would hardly have made it to the 14th book, right? We want the whole complicated situation to work out, we’re rooting for Tabini-aji and the whole ateva society, and the peripheral human societies, too, annoying as they can be.

So: Cajeiri is finally getting his dearest wish for his birthday (the fortunate ninth birthday, following what we have to admit was a pretty infelicitous eighth year. Maybe there’s something to all that ateva numerology after all, hey?)

The human kids have finally made it down onto the planet, so we’re getting to actually know them for the first time. I like them all; in just a few words Cherryh has turned them all into real people. And how awed they are by ordinary river pebbles and things, since they’ve never been on a planet before. Very nice! I’m glad these kids are clearly going to be around for at least one more book; it wouldn’t surprise me to find them all continuing to be present through the rest of the series.

Naturally there are political complications wrapped around the birthday party, and it’s nice to see that the good guys are finally in position to take out a huge chunk of the opposition, now that they’ve finally figured out who that is. The plot for the third book in this particular sub-trilogy of the series is pretty clear, though no doubt something complicated will happen that we don’t yet see coming.

I’m pretty sure that this series is aiming at eighteen books. The series has just about got to include a sub-trilogy where the kyo, so often referred to since we met them, actually do show up again. If I were guessing, after the next book where the aji’s political situation will get resolved, Cherryh will do one last sub-trilogy where she brings back the kyo and everyone meets some major crisis and we actually get to a more complete resolution that leaves the whole world and all three species in a better place. I can see her setting it up. At least, I think I can.

Anybody else out there following this series? It’s certainly not what I would suggest for an intro to CJ Cherryh — far too long, and slow to get started, and not everybody likes complicated politics. But for creating an alien species and society that feels utterly real and complete, well, I don’t think it’s ever, ever been done half as well by anyone else.

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And Cake!

November cakes

Do you remember the November cakes from Maggie Stiefvater’s SCORPIO RACES?

Well, if you’re food-focused like me and really wanted to try a November cake, here is Maggie’s recipe, and here are a zillion pictures of the November cakes her readers made.

Think of them as cinnamon rolls, only made with a touch of orange rather than cinnamon. Me, I like the look of that recipe, but I think I will add 1/4 tsp orange extract to the glaze as well as the filling. and the icing. And maybe the dough, too. I mean, if you’re going to have a hint of orange, why not a very definite hint?

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Trophies!

Few entries = a good chance of trophies.

But!

Both my girls got scores of 99 (out of 100) this morning! So they would have been in the running at nearly any show and totally deserved these trophies.

Those are all high-in-rally-trial ribbons. Folly beat Giedre Thursday and Friday; since they tied this morning, I’m calling the third ribbon for Geidre. I’m sure Folly won’t mind.

Plus the prizes were good — $25 gift certificates for Walmart, one for each day — that really moderates the whole cost of the weekend. Plus toys and other little stuff. So . . . way to go, girls!

I’m skipping the breed ring today, so no need to dress up to show and down again to drive home, plus I can leave much earlier, have plenty of time at home this afternoon to get Pippa ready for tomorrow. I want my Pippa to win Veterans! She hasn’t been shown in the breed ring since she was spayed four years ago, but she has nine performance titles, so she should be great when all she needs to do is stand beautifully and trot beautifully. She is beautiful and has tons of pizzazz, so I can hardly believe she won’t win over any other Veteran girl, but we’ll see. Here’s Pippa when she was three or four years old — she is seven now.

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Nice post from Marie Brennen on novel titles —

In which she explains that titles like the one I just used for this post are (usually) not good titles for novels.

Oh, God, the misery of titles. I can’t even tell you. Unless you’ve tried to name a bunch of novels, and then you know. Though at least, unlike Marie Brennen, I’ve never been forced to try to come up with a title that is both a quote from a classic novel and ends in a verb. Hands tied much?

Fortunately, cover art can be so evocative that it completely trumps the title. I would say that this is the case for THE FLOATING ISLANDS, for example. I can’t tell you how many people have said something like, “I initially picked this book up because of the gorgeous cover . . .” Yes, I agree with you all: I love that cover, too.

I know I mentioned this post at the time, but agent Rachelle Gardner also addressed this topic a year or two ago, only her post was all about a strategy you can actually use to come up with titles.

I actually used Gardner’s suggestions to come up with my personal favorite of all my titles: The Mountain of Kept Memory. (Which I’m hoping to have good news about sometime this year, so cross your fingers for me.)

Marie Brennen decries the “Noun of Noun” titles, and of course The Mountain of Kept Memory does have a “Noun of Noun” structure, sort of, but still, I’ll say that this title is evocative without using any of the standard “watch me be evocative here” words.

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Puppies!

In other news . . . yeah, a little distracted this weekend. Showing, you know! I’m happy to say that both my teenagers, Folly and Giedre, qualified in Rally Novice last night and this morning. Yay! I have barely worked with Giedre especially, but she’s done just fine so far, with scores of 91 today and 93 yesterday. Folly is more a natural for obedience, with clean straight sits and fast responses, so she’s earned High in Rally both days (scores of 94 both days, if I remember correctly). Once more tomorrow morning and they’ll both have their first titles! Here’s hoping I don’t walk past a sign or anything stupid like that. I’ll try to remember to have someone take a picture tomorrow, but you do focus on what you’re doing and forget other things.

Meanwhile, the breed ring awaits this afternoon! I don’t expect either youngster to do much of anything; Folly is a very young looking sixteen-month old who really needs to gain a few pounds, and though Giedre’s bite has improved, it is still under. Many judges will just send you to the back of the line for an underbite even if your puppy is otherwise outstanding — which she is.

And! Since I haven’t taken any pictures of my girls at this show, let me just add a current picture of my baby:

Honey at eight weeks

Honey looks just as nice as Giedre, except HER bite is good. Of course she does have that kiss mark down on her muzzle, but hardly any judge will care much about that. Worse, she is plainly going to show some white in her sclera in one eye. In Cavaliers, we prefer pigmented sclera in both eyes. Well, well, cosmetic failings, what can I say. Her structure looks excellent and her personality is engaging. She’ll be old enough to show this fall, I hope some judges will look past the white sclera to see her overall quality.

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Marie Brennen —

Has a post over at Fantasy Book Café today, brief but worth a read. I totally agree that to get the “flavor” of the nineteenth century the way she wanted in A Natural History of Dragons, she definitely needed to set up a thoroughly sexist society. I loved how much she captured the feel of England and Eastern Europe, without actually setting her book in England of Eastern Europe.

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Fantasy Flowchart

Another great post from Susan Morris!

Not exactly a post, really. A flowchart. All those attempts to sort out the subgenres of fantasy? This flowchart may not be utterly complete, but it’s funny and (I think) accurate. Take a look.

My favorite tidbit is: Can The Hero Win? Y — vs — Outlook not so good. I’m sure you can guess that the former leads to heroic fantasy (among other options) and the latter to what the flowchart calls “dark” fantasy, but I would guess is these days sometimes referred to as grimdark. Or, hey, let’s have one more iteration down in that corner:

Are any characters or the world better at the end of the story than at the beginning? Or: Is there any hope?

Y: Dark fantasy

N: Grimdark

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Publishing does not want to eat your heart

A nice post by Maggie Stiefvater. I’m sure it’s not news to anybody reasonable — surely? — that the goal, as far as a publisher is concerned, is to publish only books that will appeal to lots of readers, and that no one is actually out to hurt the aspiring writer’s feelings by declining to publish their book.

And as Maggie Stiefvater says, before you even get to a traditional publisher, an agent doesn’t just have to like a book well enough to want to represent it — she has to love your book enough to want to spend hundreds of hours dealing with it. I mean, with BLACK DOG, my agent read enough iterations to become unable to evaluate it, so she eventually roped in a colleague to read the last draft. And that was before doing all the work involved in sending the ms out to publishers and then negotiating the contract.

I’ve always thought, btw, that probably it’s at least equally important, when an agent is deciding whether to represent you, that she gets an idea that you won’t be a pain in the neck to work with. Because who wants to deal with a prima dona who thinks their every word is inspired and won’t change or cut anything?

And that’s not even mentioning the crazy people.

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Have you heard about —

Recent and upcoming releases you might have known about, but I didn’t, until just today when I went looking for interesting news.

For example, this is just out: CJ Cherryh’s 14th (!) Foreigner book, PROTECTOR. Cajeiri’s human friends are going to get to come for a visit! That’ll be fun, and I expect things will get complicated. I ordered this one just about one minute ago, since I actually have time to read it this month.

And, hey, did you know Robin McKinley has a new title due out? SHADOWS, in September. It’s not a sequel to SUNSHINE, which would have been my first choice; but I’m always glad to see a new title from McKinley; it happens too seldom. Amazon says, about SHADOWS, “Maggie knows something’s off about Val, her mom’s new husband. Val is from Oldworld, where they still use magic, and he won’t have any tech in his office-shed behind the house. But — more importantly — what are the huge, horrible, jagged, jumpy shadows following him around? Magic is illegal in Newworld, which is all about science. The magic-carrying gene was disabled two generations ago, back when Maggie’s great-grandmother was a notable magician. But that was a long time ago.” Not that I care about the description; if McKinley’s name is on the cover, that’s enough for me.

And Ilona Andrews! Not only do they have a new Kate Daniels novel (MAGIC RISES) due to hit the shelves in July, they’ve just signed a contract with Avon for a new series that’ll be set in a world controlled by “modern Medici-like dynasties with paranormally enhanced abilities.” Very nice! I’m sure it’ll be great.

Also! Did any of you read Laura Whitcomb’s beautiful ghost story, A CERTAIN SLANT OF LIGHT? It was one of my very favorite books the year it came out — and the sequel’s due out in May. UNDER THE LIGHT.I can’t wait.

Last, I know Elaine T mentioned this in a comment to a recent post, but in case you missed that, yes, Marie Brennen is definitely writing a sequel to A NATURAL HISTORY OF DRAGONS. It’s called THE TROPIC OF SERPENTS. I’ll be right there the minute it hits the shelves.

That’s five titles I’m excited about. Anything on your radar?

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