Back Cover Copy for Keraunani

I threw brief, casual back cover copy onto my fake cover for Keraunani just so I could move on and get a review copy to help me proofread the book. I mean, really brief! Like this:

When Esau Karuma volunteered to marry a girl real quick to get her out of trouble, he didn’t anticipate any particular difficulty.

He may have been a little too optimistic about that …

Now, I don’t know that the back cover description is super important for this book. People are going to read Tarashana and think, Sure, why not see how Esau’s mission goes, sounds like fun. Or possibly, Well, what I want is Tasmakat, but in the meantime, fine, how is Esau’s mission going? Honestly, the above description might be enough to remind readers that oh, right, Esau had this side mission, and that’s probably enough.

Perhaps a little more detail might be advisable, though. Something like this:

Esau never expected to marry any woman. Not permanently, as a jewel wife. He’s really not the type to give a girl a jewel.

But when Keraunani needs to get married right away to get out from under a whole lot of trouble, Esau doesn’t hesitate to volunteer. After all, there’s no reason there should be any particular difficulty about it. As long as the girl has a thimbleful of common sense, no reason either of them should be too much of a nuisance to the other. He’ll just marry her quick, get her settled someplace she’ll be comfortable, and that will be that.

He might have been a little too optimistic …

What do you all think? How does that sound?

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2021 In Review

No, not that kind of review. I’m not looking at the world. (Scared to, frankly.) Now that it’s December and we’re getting close to the end of the year, I’m looking closer to home: at what writing projects I worked on this year, what I didn’t quite manage to complete this year, and what I want to work on next year.

What I did this year:

–Brought out The Sphere of the Winds in February. I’m pausing to appreciate that because it’s hard to believe that happened this year. It seems much longer ago.

–Brought out Tarashana in March. Oddly, that does not seem as long ago.

–Revised and brought out the Death’s Lady trilogy in May. Now, that seems like practically yesterday. How strange our perception of time can be. I suspect this is because I did so much more fiddling with this one for what seemed a quite extended period, whereas I barely touched Sphere.

–Revised (again) an SF novel called No Foreign Sky and handed it (again) to my agent for her perusal.

–Wrote Keraunani from start to finish and have it completely ready to release early next year (whenever the cover is ready). This is what I’m happiest about, so I’m mentally plastering this item with many gold stars and adding little smiley faces.

Samuel, Smilies, Smiley, Emoticon, Face, Cartoon, Smile

–Wrote complete drafts of three Black Dog novellas (to join the one I wrote a year or two ago). They’re each about 70 to 90 pages, whatever that is in words. I’m reasonably happy with this too, although I didn’t get them all finished and revised as quickly as I’d hoped.

–Figured out how to (probably) (I’m pretty sure) finish the SF novel, Invictus, that has given me enormous trouble for several years, and began revising the manuscript in light of that new understanding. This project is not connected in any way to the SF novel mentioned above.

–Wrote about 100 pages of Tasmakat, though at this point it’s impossible to know how much of that will actually appear in the final draft. Or even the complete first draft.

–Wrote a long, roughly 130-pp, novella set in the Tuyo world, which takes place directly after Tuyo. I’ll call this Suelen for now, as that’s the name of the protagonist.

–Wrote 20 pp or so, plus brief notes, for a possible story from Tano’s pov, which takes place directly after Tarashana.

–Came up with an idea for another story in the Tuyo world, which would take place during the events of Tarashana and Tasmakat. I may not write that, but thanks to Kim Aippersbach for the suggestion that led to this idea (“Maybe you can take that neat character you just cut from Tasmakat and write a separate story about him.”) (Yes, could be!).

–Came up with a pretty clear notion that could supply the central plotline of a novel or series of novels from Tano’s point of view, and thanks to Craig for the suggestion that led to that idea. It would constitute a spoiler to say anything about that idea. I will just point out that, given the thing with the eagle, it would be strange if Tano didn’t have an exciting life.

–Came up with a rough outline for a third book in The Floating Islands series, and I’m grateful to the various people who prompted me to do that by writing me long letters about Sphere.

–Took casual notes about the 5th Black Dog novel, Silver Circle.

I think that’s it? Pretty sure that’s it.

What I did not do this year (that I actually hoped to do):

–Release the Black Dog stories for the 4th collection.

–Write anything at all for Silver Circle.

–Finish the draft of Invictus.

–Finish the Death’s Lady novella that’s been sitting here practically forever. I mean, I wrote the pages I have right after I wrote the main story, so that was a long time ago. Several of you have asked about this story and I have picked it up several times fairly recently and added a little to it. I know the next few scenes; I’ve known those scenes from the beginning. I just need to find time to write them. Also, more difficult, I need to decide exactly where to end this novella, because it could continue straight into a new book in the series, and I’m not sure whether to wave the dangling thread with a dramatic flourish or not. I will add, this story is from Kuomat’s point of view and the dangling thread has to do with who he used to be.

Overall, I’m happy with how much I did this year and pretty much satisfied with where things wound up and how my time and attention was allocated. Obviously I would have liked to do the four items above, but I’m not exactly surprised that I didn’t get to them. I did two fairly major revisions (Death’s Lady and No Foreign Sky), plus wrote, hmm, my rough calculation suggests that I wrote about 850 pages or so, what with this and that. Fiction, not counting things like blog posts. Yep, I think that’s satisfactory!

What I plan (or anyway hope) to do in 2022:

–Finish the 4th Black Dog collection and bring that out.

–Bring out Keraunani.

–Finish Invictus and almost certainly bring that out myself. This is a book I’m pretty excited about, but I’m not at all sure editors would feel the same way. It’s not exactly space opera. I’m not sure what it is. I started with a core concept that’s sort of similar to the central relationship in Tuyo, but also significantly different. And playing out against a totally different background and situation. Still, there is this essential similarity, except that this time both protagonists do get to carry the pov and the older one is a woman. Anyway, I love this story and I really, really, really want to prioritize it for 2022.

–By the end of the year, either see progress toward traditional publication for No Foreign Sky or else prepare to bring that out myself. This is sociological SF with a space opera sort of plot. My first truly alien species! I’d like to see this story out in the world.

–Bring out Suelen in one form or another.

–Finish the Death’s Lady novella — you know what, let’s just call that Kuomat for now — and bring that out in one form or another.

–Possibly finish that story from Tano’s pov, since if I write it at all, it ought really to be released before Tasmakat. If I write it, bring it out in one form or another.

–Write Tasmakat, and here I’m not just saying “finish” because it barely counts as started. I’m sure it will go long, so the 100 pages or so I have now are a small fraction of the finished draft.

–Possibly write that other story in the Tuyo world, the one Kim suggested.

–Make substantial progress on Silver Circle, even if (as seems fairly likely) I don’t complete a full draft. This depends primarily on how fast Tasmakat goes. If that one turns into a completely obsessive project and I write the whole draft in two months or whatever, then obviously Silver Circle is a lot more likely to also get completed in 2022. If I DO finish a full draft of this final Black Dog novel, I’ll be super happy about that. I will add, if I hit the 80,000 word mark, I’m pretty likely to get it finished in fairly short order. That’s the point at which, first, I really feel like with just a little more of a push, I could be there; and second, I usually have a clear idea of the ending scenes and the whole feel of the draft goes from “uphill” to “downhill.”

–Frame out an extended Epilogue type of story for the Black Dog world, possibly something that might appear in a 5th collection.

–Work just a little on the Complicated Epic Fantasy that I have barely started. I’d like to have that actually in progress by the end of 2022, with, ideally (I know, this is probably crazy), some reasonable notion where that story is going. That way I may be able to really work on it in 2023.

–Start a third Floating Islands novel, and I’m sorry that this hopeful statement doesn’t constitute a guarantee because I know quite a few people would like me to do this. I’m adding it here because the odds are fairly good I will indeed move forward on this project. I have this absolutely great scene in mind that would be amazing fun to write and that may make all the difference. I might write the beginning of this book or maybe jump all the way ahead and write that scene; either would constitute “starting” this book, and if I do start it, then I am much more likely to finish it.

And that … is a baker’s dozen items for 2022. That is probably enough to keep me usefully occupied next year.

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Be grateful in your own hearts

I saw this just now at Passive Voice and thought, How lovely.

I will post it here as well, even though it’s now a few days post-Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving has wings

November 25, 2021 by PG

Be grateful in your own hearts. That suffices. Thanksgiving has wings, and flies to its right destination.

Victor Hugo

Several other Thanksgiving quotes at Passive Voice; click through if you’d like to read them all.

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Finished! Unexpectedly

Okay, so, one of the strategies that people talk about with regard to self-publishing is the use of something called a “book funnel,” which is a fairly broad term that refers to, say, a free story or novella that readers can pick up only by subscribing to your email list. Or a free book in a series, used as an inducement to subscribe but also available for purchase. This sort of idea is described, for example, here, and this is a technique that I want to consider more carefully and maybe put in place in 2022. Everyone seems to agree that building an email list is crucial, so well, probably I ought to take steps to do that, I guess.

So to open up options for that kind of thing, I thought, I’ve got this idea for a story set in the Tuyo world, I’ll write that and then think about how best to use it.

I figured this story would run about forty pages, fifty max — okay, maaaaybe up to 60 or so — but it ought to be fairly short, so it shouldn’t take long to write, and then once I had a finished draft I could set it aside for a bit and decide how to proceed whenever I got around to it.

Well, it may not surprise you to learn that the story wasn’t that hard to write and didn’t take too long, but poof! expanded to 130 pages or so, about 45,000 words. I finished it this morning, barring ordinary revision. It certainly seems long enough to just bring it out as a separate story. Which I guess I’ll do, sometime next year. I’ll need to revise it and get a cover for it and so on. I may still be able to use this story as a book funnel in one way or another; I’m not sure.

Regardless, this story is set directly after Tuyo. The basic idea … well, obviously you remember the battle that took place in the winter country. You probably remember that the inKera were going to care for those who were too badly injured to travel. No doubt you realize that a small handful of surviving Lau must have been among those injured. Well, think how a Lau physician would feel, learning about those Lau, abandoned in the winter country, subject to who knows what barbaric medical practices, maybe to neglect or outright abuse. If that physician were brave enough, he might well insist on heading into the winter lands, with as many medical supplies as he could carry, to deal with this situation.

Surgeon Dedicat Suelen Haras Soyauta, personal physician to the king of the summer country, is that physician.

I learned quite a bit about medical practices in ancient Rome and so forth while looking up stuff for this story. As you all no doubt realize, the history of medicine in the real world is horrifically depressing for an awfully long time. You’ll be glad to know that in the world of Tuyo, surgeons may make use of many helpful techniques that weren’t available in the real world. To be sure, some of those techniques would be viewed with great suspicion by the Ugaro, who equate all magic with sorcery.

Lord Gaur warned Suelen very strictly against using any but the most subtle cantrips while in the winter lands. But, faced with actual patients in dire need of treatment — Lau OR Ugaro — I’m sure you realize that any physician worth his salt would disregard all those warnings … and there you go. That’s the basic story.

So, that’s what I did over Thanksgiving weekend — finished this story. I hope you all — those of you who celebrate Thanksgiving — enjoyed the holiday as well!

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Writing with Food

This is turning into such a theme lately! But every time I turn around, there’s another post on this topic!

This one is a post by Jacqueline Carey, author of Kushiel’s Dart and many other books, from tor.com: Writing With Food: A Culinary Journey

I loved Kushiel’s Dart, though this series goes to pretty grim places, so I’m just saying, if that’s not what you’re in the mood for right now, fair warning. The series is by no means grimdark, however, and Carey is a fantastic writer, so if you’ve never tried her work, you might look something of hers up. She has some Urban Fantasy out too, none of which I have read, though I’ve had one of those on my TBR pile for years.

But back to the topic: Writing with food!

During the summer I spent on the island of Crete, in the village where we lived there was a family-owned taverna that didn’t have a name. The father worked over an outdoor grill in one corner of the terrace. I still daydream about their grilled octopus. That simple yet exquisite dish led me to commit a rare culinary anachronism in my alternate historical writing. In Kushiel’s Mercy, Imriel arrives on the island of Cythera. Looking for a grounding detail, I thought about my favorite meals in Greece. Consequently, my oft-beleaguered young hero enjoys a rare moment of respite with a luncheon of grilled octopus accompanied by potatoes cooked in olive oil.

Potatoes, oops.

A week or two before the book was released, I woke up in the middle of the night and realized, “Ohmigod, we haven’t discovered the New World yet, potatoes couldn’t possibly exist in this scenario!” Too late. I never actually did correct that reference. By the time the opportunity to proof the paperback edition rolled around, I was kind of amused by it and decided to let it stay so I could use it as a trivia question.

Click through if you’d like to read the rest of post.

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Gingerbread bricks

While on the subject of food, which we sort of are because of the recent post on worldbuilding with food, here’s an unexpected post at tor.com: Gingerbread Bricks, Cherry-Stealing Cats, and Other Culinary Disasters

I say this post is unexpected because it’s by … … … Patricia McKillip! I bet you didn’t see that coming! Aren’t you a zillion times more interested in clicking through now? Of course you are.

But here’s an excerpt:

My most vivid cooking memory, even after so many years, is setting my brother on fire with my Cherries Jubilee.

I think I wanted to make Cherries Jubilee because of its name. Who wouldn’t? My mother made wonderful cherry pies for years. This was sort of the same thing only without a crust and with a match. A sauce for vanilla ice cream: how hard could that be? Just about all I had to do was pour a shot glass or two of brandy on some warmed cherries and light it up. As Shakespeare put it: “Strange how desire doth outrun performance.” As I ladled cherries into my youngest sibling’s bowl, my hand shook and suddenly there was a blue flame dancing along his blue jeans. I stared at it. He stared at it. The expression on his face mingled amazement that I had set him on fire with a long-suffering lack of surprise. For that one second, both of us wondered what to do. Then I decided: Better me than my brother. I brushed the flame off his knee with my hand and found that fire could be quite cool. His expression changed: for once I had managed to impress him, though it certainly wasn’t with my cooking.

Happy Thanksgiving, and enjoy the gingerbread brick story…

Gingerbread House, Gingerbread, Christmas, Decoration
Image from Pixabey

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Argh, Pushing Back the Black Dog Collection

Okay, so, sorry, but I’ve decided to stop stressing over getting the 4th Black Dog collection out in December. That would put too much pressure on me (to do revisions really fast) and on proofreaders (to proofread even faster). I most particularly don’t want to rush in a way that means I miss doing the revisions as well as they should be done.

There’s no deadline set in stone, so … I’m moving this release to “undefined time early in 2022.”

The good news: I DO have drafts complete for four novellas, all of which are on the longish side as these stories go. Four has been the usual number per collection. I may or may not write a fifth novella. If I don’t, then I’ll aim to release this collection in January 2022. If I do, then … I know, but … probably February. Or later.

I’m leaning (hard) toward leaving this collection at four stories, but I will take another look at the partial draft of Grayson’s story and consider a few other possibilities before I decide for sure.

Regardless, I will definitely aim to finish everything but final proofreading over Christmas Break. Among other things. Christmas Break is a major writing period for me and I certainly want to work on something else too. I mean, honestly, this collection IS pretty near completion no matter how I handle it.

But, sorry, there will definitely be a delay.

Have a black puppy as a consolation prize. This is Morgan’s son. His name is Gimli — that’s his call name. His actual name is Anara Owain Lord Of Moria At Your Service, which demonstrates an excellent feel for great show names on the part of his owners because they came up with that. I must say, that name would look really good on a championship certificate.

This picture was taken some time ago, so Gimli is older than this now, but it’s one of my favorite pictures of him. He’s a great puppy and I was happy to de-limit his registration when his owners requested that. They’ve already put him in his first baby show. (He didn’t win his class, but I’m sure that was a miscarriage of justice.)

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Worldbuilding with food

After the previous post about “easy-ish” worldbuilding, this post by Joe M. McDermott about Worldbuilding and the Labor of Food certainly seems relevant! Also, food! Who doesn’t like that as a topic, right? Plus, I already specifically use details about food in worldbuilding anyway.

The labor of food! What crops are grown and who grows them, that’s part of the labor of food. So is cooking, from the day-in-day-out grinding of grain — did you know the skeletons of ancient Egyptian women show a very typical pathology linked to the continual labor to grind grain? That’s what leaped to mind for me when I saw the title of this post. I don’t know yet what direction McDermott will take here. I’ll look in a minute.

Of course, besides the labor of agriculture, there’s also the labor involved in cooking; who does the work and where, and with what variety and artistry? Remember the fun DWJ had with “stew” in The Tough Guide to Fantasyland?

Daily cooking is important, of course, but sometimes I prefer to focus on the beauty of special dishes rather than the labor involved in making, say, stew. Not just in The Floating Islands, where food is so central, but also in House of Shadows — remember the banquet scene? That was fun to write. Oh, hey, look at that, House of Shadows actually has a rating on Amazon of 4.7. I didn’t realize that until I pulled it up to get the link. I believe that must be my highest-rated book — certainly my highest rated traditionally published book. Let me just see … actually, quite a few 4.6 ratings, that’s nice to see … oh, look at this, The Sphere of the Winds actually has a star rating of 5.0!

The Sphere of the Winds by [Rachel Neumeier]

Wow, now I’m especially happy I self-published this book … was that just this past spring? How time flies! Thank you, everyone who has left a review.

Anyway, back to the topic — worldbuilding and the labor of food. Let’s see where McDermott goes with this …

I have a lot of fruit trees on my little, suburban lot. It’s a postage stamp lot, and packed in as tight as can be are six citrus trees, two pomegranates, two pears, two plums, two peaches, a jujube, three grapevines, a barbados cherry, two olive trees, a loquat, an elderberry, passionfruit vines, blackberries, raspberry

Wow, I’m envious! I’m down to five apple trees, having given up on the stonefruits. We had tremendous trouble with brown rot starting the year when hail came in and whapped the poor peaches just as they were ripening. All the peaches rotted on the trees and brown rot sank its claws in deep and we couldn’t get rid of it no matter what we did. Huge problems every year until, as I say, we gave up and removed the trees.

We do still have elderberries and raspberries. How neat to have olive trees! Though it’s a lot easier to buy olives of whatever types appeal to you. If I could grow any fruit tree, it wouldn’t be olives. It would be a Haas avocado. If I could pick another, it’d be a mango.

McDermott has a bit more to say about the food plants at his own home. Then he segues into the actual topic:

I think about how many fantasy novels are written and read by people who don’t take even a moment to think about what the weather and landscape mean to available food. In some ways, the conspicuous absence when I read fantasy is found in the way food is grown, harvested, prepared.

This is not quite the same, but I’m thinking now about this YA series … let me see … oh, right, the series that starts with Life as We Knew It. I liked this book a lot, it was quick and fun to read — I mean, fun for a post-apocalyptic story — but I was shocked how none of the characters ever thought, “Here I am looking at imminent starvation, so maybe I should go shoot a deer before they all starve. Or I bet there are fish in that pond. Or maybe we should collect acorns; I know those are edible if you treat them somehow, might be time to try to figure that out.” It was exactly like these (rural, or rural-ish) people had no notion food could ever come from anything but a grocery store. My take: Wow, every single editor and copy editor who ever looked at this has got to live smack dab in the middle of NYC.

And yes, I once did gather a lot of acorns and make acorn flour. I mean, why not? I wanted to see what that was like, and there were SO MANY acorns just lying there on the deck and in the yard. I had to do something with them because some of the dogs kept wanting to eat them. To this day, Dora will drop an acorn if I point at her sternly. They are in fact somewhat toxic and I really do not want the dogs to eat them. They’re quite bitter without treatment, so I’m baffled why they want to. (I’m just letting this post ramble, as you’ve gathered.)

Back to McDermott’s post:

The amount of work that goes into a single grain of wheat, a single loaf of bread, has been lost to us. We have divided up that labor across different industries such that we see a farmhouse table in our minds populated with edible things, and we think nothing of the farm from which everything rose up to create that picturesque scene. We don’t see all the manual labor required to get the raw material of soil into seed into a form that we can eat and put on that table. 

You know who does a great job with this? LMB in the Sharing Knife series.

Beguilement (The Sharing Knife, Book 1): Volume 1 (The Wide Green World Series) by [Lois McMaster Bujold]

Because of the way Bujold focuses on normal people living normal lives (I mean, plus the occasional giant bats), we do see a lot of day-to-day life on farms and small villages. Plenty about planting and harvesting and the work involved in getting food on the table. I love the small-scale focus on daily life in this series. That’s one of the factors that makes this series so comfortable to re-read.

McDermott writes:

I have grown a bit of corn from seed and dried it and ground it up into corn flour, and saved the seeds for another year’s cornbread. I have reached into the past to try and figure out how the people who lived here for a thousand years and more managed to survive on acorns and roots and pumpkins and peppers. We talk about world-building all the time, as writers, but we do it in our heads, where we can invent whatever suits us. When I build a world in my little yard, and it is an act of world-building, of managing forces and distances, constructing ecosystems and figuring out solutions to problems I unintentionally create, I am forced to face the hard truth of building a world.

That’s nicely put.

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Business Phrasebook

From the Economist via The Passive Voice blog: The business phrasebook

This is bit that caught my eye:

“I hear you”

Ostensible meaning: You’re making a legitimate point
Actual meaning: Be quiet

I laughed. That seems just about exactly right.

They go on like that. Here’s my favorite:

“I’m just curious…”

Ostensible meaning: I’d like to know why you think that…
Actual meaning: …because it makes no sense to anyone else

Click through and see which ones strike you as most true-to-life.

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