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Final (?) Back Cover Copy for Keraunani

I went back to all your suggestions, then revised. So, what do you all think of this:

Esau Karuma never expected to marry — he’s really not the type.

But when he hears about a girl who’s got to get married immediately or else she’ll be crushed under a whole mountain of trouble, Esau doesn’t hesitate to volunteer. He’ll whisk her out of the way of disaster, marry her real quick, get her settled someplace she’ll be comfortable, and that will be that. No reason in the world either of them should be too much of a nuisance to the other.

Given his whole life so far, he should have known that plan might be a little too optimistic …

Also, opinion poll: There are nineteen chapters. All the odd-numbered chapters are “present day” and involve Keraunani. All the even-numbered chapters take place eight years before and involve a variety of other characters and situations that serve to show some of the experiences that made Esau the kind of man he is. I used a slightly different font for the two different narratives.

Normally I don’t do anything at all for chapter names. I just put in a list of numbers, clickable for the ebook and with page numbers for the paper edition, and that’s it. What do you think of putting “current day” and “previously” into the table of contents? Just repeating whichever is appropriate next to each chapter number? Would that be helpful, unnecessary, distracting, something else?

This is a real novel, though not exceptionally long. It’s 365 pp (paper edition) or about 6000 units (ebook, and I have no clue what those units actually represent).

I’ve also included about 15 pages of the beginning of Tasmakat, but, warning! Since that draft is far (far!) from completed, I really do not know whether those pages will in fact comprise the beginning of the final book. On the one hand, I don’t dramatically change the beginning too often, plus I am using the journey back from the winter country for important foreshadowing that would be difficult to include elsewhere, so it would be hard to cut. On the other hand, this is not a guarantee that I won’t change my mind. So, while I hope you enjoy the teaser, it might not be the actual beginning of the real book.

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Thank you All–

For expressing your kind thoughts regarding my father’s passing.

When selecting poems for the past ten days, I encountered several I’d never heard before and found touching and meaningful. I particularly liked “I am Standing Upon the Seashore.” That one truly expressed the feeling I wanted.

For me, though, it’s hard to beat “Crossing the Bar.” Oddly, the stanza that has kept running through my mind through all these days is this one:

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
      Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
      Turns again home.

Something about the rhythm … or the meaning … or both. But whenever I wasn’t thinking about something else, these lines came back to me. They’re still running through my mind today.

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High Flight

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, –and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of –Wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air…
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark or even eagle flew —
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

–John Gillespie Magee

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From Hope and Fear Set Free

Here, where the world is quiet;
         Here, where all trouble seems
Dead winds’ and spent waves’ riot
         In doubtful dreams of dreams;
I watch the green field growing
For reaping folk and sowing,
For harvest-time and mowing,
         A sleepy world of streams.

I am tired of tears and laughter,
         And men that laugh and weep;
Of what may come hereafter
         For men that sow to reap:
I am weary of days and hours,
Blown buds of barren flowers,
Desires and dreams and powers
         And everything but sleep.

Here life has death for neighbour,
         And far from eye or ear
Wan waves and wet winds labour,
         Weak ships and spirits steer;
They drive adrift, and whither
They wot not who make thither;
But no such winds blow hither,
         And no such things grow here.

No growth of moor or coppice,
         No heather-flower or vine,
But bloomless buds of poppies,
         Green grapes of Proserpine,
Pale beds of blowing rushes
Where no leaf blooms or blushes
Save this whereout she crushes
         For dead men deadly wine.

Pale, without name or number,
         In fruitless fields of corn,
They bow themselves and slumber
         All night till light is born;
And like a soul belated,
In hell and heaven unmated,
By cloud and mist abated
         Comes out of darkness morn.

Though one were strong as seven,
         He too with death shall dwell,
Nor wake with wings in heaven,
         Nor weep for pains in hell;
Though one were fair as roses,
His beauty clouds and closes;
And well though love reposes,
         In the end it is not well.

Pale, beyond porch and portal,
         Crowned with calm leaves, she stands
Who gathers all things mortal
         With cold immortal hands;
Her languid lips are sweeter
Than love’s who fears to greet her
To men that mix and meet her
         From many times and lands.

She waits for each and other,
         She waits for all men born;
Forgets the earth her mother,
            The life of fruits and corn;
And spring and seed and swallow
Take wing for her and follow
Where summer song rings hollow
         And flowers are put to scorn.

There go the loves that wither,
         The old loves with wearier wings;
And all dead years draw thither,
         And all disastrous things;
Dead dreams of days forsaken,
Blind buds that snows have shaken,
Wild leaves that winds have taken,
         Red strays of ruined springs.

We are not sure of sorrow,
         And joy was never sure;
To-day will die to-morrow;
         Time stoops to no man’s lure;
And love, grown faint and fretful,
With lips but half regretful
Sighs, and with eyes forgetful
         Weeps that no loves endure.

From too much love of living,
         From hope and fear set free,
We thank with brief thanksgiving
         Whatever gods may be
That no life lives for ever;
That dead men rise up never;
That even the weariest river
         Winds somewhere safe to sea.

Then star nor sun shall waken,
         Nor any change of light:
Nor sound of waters shaken,
         Nor any sound or sight:
Nor wintry leaves nor vernal,
Nor days nor things diurnal;
Only the sleep eternal
         In an eternal night.

— Swinburne

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Death, Be Not Proud

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

— John Donne

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Choosing a Title

Here’s a post at Jane Friedman’s blog: Choose the Perfect Title for Your Novel or Memoir: 7 Authors Offer Tips

Oooooh yes, we are all familiar with the traumatic process of choosing a title! Here’s how this post begins:

Heather Young, author of literary murder mysteries, loved her initial titles, but her publisher asked her to change them—a very common experience.

 “I pitched my first novel with the title White Earth, but the marketing department said it sounded like an alien invasion novel,” explained Young. “My agent recommended that I go through the book and find a phrase that leaped out at me. I found ‘once we were light’ and I pitched it, but they said it sounded like a weight loss book. Finally, the publisher suggested The Lost Girl. My contribution was, ‘Let’s make it plural,’ so the title The Lost Girls came by committee, between me, my publisher and the marketers.”

And who knows, maybe the marketing people were correct, but as far as I’m concerned “Once We Were Light” does not sound a bit like a weight-loss book and DOES sound like a great title. It sounds far better to me than “The Lost Girls” — which sounds like mystery or true-crime to me, or actually, no, you know what that sounds like? A take-off on the Lost Boys from Peter Pan! This sounds like some sort of Peter-Pan-adjacent story, maybe a retelling or something! Now that I’ve thought of that, I’m really certain that “Once We Were Light” would have been better.

Anyway, what about the idea of going through the novel and finding a phrase that leaps out at you? That’s not a bad idea.

Another good tip: Once you settle on a title, go back and fit that title into your novel. In this post, one author describes adding a stanza of poetry to one or two scenes in her novel in order to justify a phrase from that poem as the title. That’s a good idea. I retrofitted a line into The Mountain of Kept Memory in much the same way — I added the phrase “kept memory” into the book occasionally, and at least once “the mountain of kept memory,” after coming up with the title, not before.

But I created that title … let me see if I can remember … there was a post about coming up with titles, but alas, I can’t remember and now I can’t find it. After all, there are a zillion posts on this topic. It was about picking evocative words … no, I really can’t remember, sorry.

Mostly, when it comes to fantasy novels, everyone seems to default to The Noun of the Noun or the Adjective Noun. Or else to the name of the main character. Certainly I’ve done both. That can work perfectly well.

Here’s another post about creating titles: Book Titles Made Easy(-ish). That’s certainly a good title for the post! Made me click through. Let’s take a look at the advice offered here …

… Ah, the power of one! One-word titles, she means. Often that does work well. She’s thinking about books other than fantasy, but it doesn’t matter, one-word titles still work well. A single word can be powerful. She points to a book called Blink, which immediately makes me think Don’t Even Blink, which would actually be a great title, as long as you wanted to evoke that specific Dr Who episode as well as suggest something about your novel.

Also, one-word titles are easy to remember, which is no small advantage.

Oh, here’s an interesting suggestion — verbing your title. That is, starting the title with a verb. Bury the Chains. Finding Narnia. It’s never occurred to me to use a verb like that.

Her last suggestion: Numbers. Well, maybe, BUT, I strongly recommend against titles like 2312. I can NEVER remember that particular number. I had to look it up just now. I always have to look it up. It’s also just … what is the term for the opposite of evocative? Meaningless? That’s not quite what I want, because of course the title does convey meaning. But in an important sense, that title just sits there, doing nothing.

Or maybe that’s me. What do you all think of 2312 as a title?

My personal favorite book titles … let me see …

Midnight Never Come by Marie Brennan

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandi Nelson — and while I didn’t care for the first book on this list and haven’t read the others, this is a beautiful book about grief and recovery. Contemporary. Here, let me link it for you — there. I don’t believe I’ve ever reviewed it; I don’t seem to find a review when I poke around. Well, it’s lovely and I highly recommend it, but it is about grief and recovery, so you need to have a box of tissues handy.

If you’ve got a favorite title, drop it in the comments! You needn’t like the book or have read the book, this is just about titles.

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Just Round the Corner

Death is nothing at all.
It does not count.
I have only slipped away into the next room.
Nothing has happened.

Everything remains exactly as it was.
I am I, and you are you,
and the old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged.
Whatever we were to each other, that we are still.

Call me by the old familiar name.
Speak of me in the easy way which you always used.
Put no difference into your tone.
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.

Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was.
Let it be spoken without an effort, without the ghost of a shadow upon it.

Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same as it ever was.
There is absolute and unbroken continuity.
What is this death but a negligible accident?

Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?
I am but waiting for you, for an interval,
somewhere very near,
just round the corner.

All is well.
Nothing is hurt; nothing is lost.
One brief moment and all will be as it was before.
How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again!

— Henry Scott Holland

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Standing Upon the Seashore

I am standing upon the seashore.
A ship at my side spreads her white
sails to the morning breeze and starts
for the blue ocean.

She is an object of beauty and strength.
I stand and watch her until at length
she hangs like a speck of white cloud
just where the sea and sky come
to mingle with each other.

Then, someone at my side says;
“There, she is gone!”

“Gone where?”
Gone from my sight. That is all.
She is just as large in mast and hull
and spar as she was when she left my side
and she is just as able to bear her
load of living freight to her destined port.
Her diminished size is in me, not in her.

And just at the moment when someone
at my side says, “There, she is gone!”
There are other eyes watching her coming,
and other voices ready to take up the glad shout;
“Here she comes!”
And that is dying.

— Henry van Dyke

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Toward Eternity

Because I could not stop for Death – 
He kindly stopped for me – 
The Carriage held but just Ourselves – 
And Immortality.

We slowly drove – He knew no haste
And I had put away
My labor and my leisure too,
For His Civility – 

We passed the School, where Children strove
At Recess – in the Ring – 
We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain – 
We passed the Setting Sun – 

Or rather – He passed us – 
The Dews drew quivering and chill – 
For only Gossamer, my Gown – 
My Tippet – only Tulle – 

We paused before a House that seemed
A Swelling of the Ground – 
The Roof was scarcely visible – 
The Cornice – in the Ground – 

Since then – ’tis Centuries – and yet
Feels shorter than the Day
I first surmised the Horses’ Heads
Were toward Eternity – 

— Dickinson

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What is Willpower?

From a post by Scott Alexander: Toward a Bayesian Theory of Willpower

This is something that matters to us all a thousand times a day, right? So I can’t say that I immediately know what a “Bayesian theory” would be, except something that has to do with statistics and probability, but I’m certainly interested in what Scott has to say about this.

He starts this way:

Five years ago, I reviewed Baumeister and Tierney’s book on the subject. They tentatively concluded it’s a way of rationing brain glucose. But their key results have failed to replicate, and people who know more about glucose physiology say it makes no theoretical sense. … Robert Kurzban, one of the most on-point critics of the glucose theory, gives his own model of willpower: it’s a way of minimizing opportunity costs. But how come my brain is convinced that playing Civilization for ten hours has no opportunity cost, but spending five seconds putting away dishes has such immense opportunity costs that it will probably leave me permanently destitute? I can’t find any correlation between the subjective phenomenon of willpower or effort-needingness and real opportunity costs at all.

Dishes I don’t mind, but do you realize that if you put off folding and putting away clean laundry, eventually you’ll wear all those socks again and can throw them back in the laundry basket without ever having to fold them at all? So actually the opportunity cost attaches to folding socks rather than to leaving them in a heap on top of the drier. I’m just saying.

Scott goes on for a bit and then concludes his summaries of other theories like this:

I’ve come to disagree with all of these perspectives. I think willpower is best thought of as a Bayesian process, ie an attempt to add up different kinds of evidence.At the deepest level, the brain … is an inference engine, a machine for weighing evidence and coming to conclusions. Your perceptual systems are like this – they weigh different kinds of evidence to determine what you’re seeing or hearing. Your cognitive systems are like this, they weigh different kinds of evidence to discover what beliefs are true or false. Dopamine affects all these systems in predictable ways. My theory of willpower asserts that it affects decision-making in the same way – it’s representing the amount of evidence for a hypothesis.

A long post follows, at the end of which Scott concludes:

I think the most immediate gain to having a coherent theory of willpower is to be able to more effectively rebut positions that assume willpower doesn’t exist, like Bryan Caplan’s theory of mental illness. If I’m right, lack of willpower should be thought of as an imbalance between two brain regions that decreases the rate at which intellectual evidence produces action. This isn’t a trivial problem to fix!

The lines here are perfectly straight – feel free to check with a ruler. Can you force yourself to perceive them that way? If not, it sounds like you can’t always make your intellectual/logical system overrule your instincts, which might make you more sympathetic to people with low willpower.

Those blue lines really are straight. I actually did get out a ruler and measure. I’m not actually sure this is a reasonable way to think about “making intellectual systems override instincts,” because in some ways instincts do seem like perception, but in other ways they really do not, and this is a visual perception illusion straight up. But it’s still a fun illusion.

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