Who in the world created this cover?

Here’s a fun post at, and thanks to commenter Robert for pointing me to it: Do You Know Who Illustrated This Classic Wrinkle in Time Cover?

This post is by Molly Templeton, and here is the cover she means:

If you are of a certain age, you remember it well: The creepy, haunting, downright iconic—and totally weird—cover of the 1976 Dell edition of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. But while many of us remember being scared by (and/or fascinated with) this image, there’s an unexpected mystery behind it: No one seems to know who the artist is.

I remember this cover! Oddly, I remember only the narrow-winged armless centaur. I don’t recall the creepy face at all. Perhaps that’s not odd, since I was always going to notice mythological creatures far more than creepy mask-like faces. Regardless, apparently the artist is still a mystery.

Regardless, Templeton is right. This cover is totally weird.

Robert then started me, no doubt on purpose, down the rabbit-hole question of What Is The Weirdest Cover Ever. Here’s his submission in this wild and wacky category:

Words fail me. I presume this is one of the apparently common instances when the publisher slapped a completely random cover on a book without the least regard for the tone, style, subgenre, or actually even the genre of the book in question. Apparently publishers sometimes literally used to have a file of unused covers and just pick one out at random for whatever book was up for publication next.

If you’re curious, here’s a post that shows various other covers for The Princess Bride. I think my copy is the one with the girl on the horse. That one is certainly far, far preferable to the above peculiar mess.

If you poke around looking for the worst fantasy book covers of all time, you will see plenty of contenders that give this terrible Princess Bride cover a run for its money. Here is my very favorite:

I am particularly enjoying the above because of the unexpected theme of “terrible fantasy covers featuring centaurs with strange arms.” I wouldn’t have thought there could be more than one cover in this exceedingly specific subgenre of bad covers, but here we are.

The above covers are so bad that they even make the many and terrible covers for the Vorkosigan series look pretty good. Or at least somewhat less terrible.

Anyway, here is a good cover featuring centaurs:

There you go, centaurs with normal arms.

This is of course one of the books in Nick O’Donohoe’s Crossroads trilogy, The Magic and the Healing, Under the Healing Sign, and The Healing of Crossroads. They are not linked into one series page … and, I am not finding ebook versions. Who published these? Ah, Ace. Well, Ace, what the heck is wrong with you? How about you bring out ebook editions? I guess Ace let these go out of print and O’Donohoe hasn’t got the rights back, or isn’t interested in bringing out ebook editions. That’s too bad, because the first book is excellent and the other two pretty good. (I’m downgrading them because of personal irritation with one specific detail that might not bother anyone else.)

Anyway, the protagonist is a vet student — in later books, a veterinarian, no longer a student — with an interesting and unique practice. Also serious problems, as Crossroads is at hazard for various reasons. My own vet gave this series two thumbs up for the medical details. AND, I know I have mentioned this before, but I’m going to mention it again: the protagonist here was the first time I specifically noticed an author making a character smart and perceptive without every saying, or having anyone else say, “Oh, look, she’s so smart and perceptive.”

I don’t mean O’Donohoe bludgeoned the reader over the head with BJ’s brilliance and perception and that’s why I noticed this part of her character. I don’t want to imply that. He did a great job and I just happened to sit up straight and say, “Look how perceptive she is! And the author never even says so! It’s just part of who she is! Wow, that is so neat!” It was something I was ready to notice as a reader, I guess, so it really struck me.

Writing smart characters without having to tell the reader that the character is smart is something every novelist needs to learn how to do. I mean, if any of your characters are ever going to be smart and perceptive.

Okay! Any other centaurs you particularly like in fantasy? Normal arms or otherwise, but I bet the above are the two weirdest centaurs pictured in all of fantasy.

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I did not finish your book

A post at (he’s an agent): I Did Not Finish Reading Your Book

There are a lot of reasons for this to happen. Here are a few examples.

–I didn’t care about your characters.
–The plot fizzled.
–The story became ridiculous and unrealistic.
–It was too easy to put down. Or, in other words, it was forgettable.

I won’t say this happens to me that often, because I would say that if I don’t make it past the first ten pages, I wouldn’t really say I truly started reading the book at all. I tried the book. But I didn’t actually begin reading the book. I didn’t commit.

Reasons I stopped before I got ten pages in:

A) I didn’t care about your characters. That part is the same.

B) I was actively repulsed by your characters. I’m thinking of the “Would you turn the page post” here, the one that offered this first page:

And, of course, there was to be a lunch party to mark the new year. A small affair, just family, but Thomas would require all the trimmings. Unthinkable that they would do otherwise: the Turners were big on tradition, and with Nora and Richard visiting from Sydney, neither frippery nor fanfare was to be skipped.

Isabel had decided to set up in a different part of the garden this year. Usually, they sat beneath the walnut tree on the eastern lawn, but today she’d been drawn to the stretch of grass in the shade of Mr. Wentworth’s cedar. She’d walked across it when she was cutting flowers for the table earlier and been struck by the pretty westward view toward the mountains. Yes, she’d said to herself. This will do very well. The arrival of the thought, her own decisiveness, had been intoxicating.

She told herself it was all part of her New Year’s resolution—to approach 1959 with a fresh pair of eyes and expectations—but there was a small internal voice that wondered whether she wasn’t rather tormenting her husband just a little with the sudden breach of protocol. Ever since they’d discovered the sepia photograph of Mr. Wentworth and his similarly bearded Victorian friends arranged in elegant wooden recliners on the eastern lawn, Thomas had been immovable in his conviction that it represented the superior entertaining spot.

Ugh. I have anti-interest in spending time with Isabel and her family.

C) I was actively repulsed by something about your world. This time I’m thinking of She Who Became the Sun.

Zhongli village lay flattened under the sun like a defeated dog that has given up on finding shade. All around there was nothing but the bare yellow earth, cracked into the pattern of a turtle’s shell, and the sere bone smell of hot dust. It was the fourth year of the drought. Knowing the cause of their suffering, the peasants cursed their barbarian emperor in his distant capital in the north. As with any two like things connected by a thread of qi, whereby the actions of one influence the other even at a distance, so an emperor’s worthiness determines the fate of the land he rules. The worthy ruler’s dominion is graced with good harvests; the unworthy’s is cursed by flood, drought, and disease. The present ruler of the empire of the Great Yuan was not only emperor, but Great Khan too: he was tenth of the line of the Mongol conqueror Khubilai Khan, who had defeated the last native dynasty seventy years before. He had held the divine light of the Mandate of Heaven for eleven years, and already there were ten-year-olds who had never known anything but disaster.

Ugh. I have anti-interest in spending time in this world, which is apparently characterized by grinding poverty and disaster.

D) The protagonist or important secondary characters got themselves into a pickle that is too high-tension for me to tolerate right now.

I’m still (still!) not really into high-tension, high-stakes novels. Unless I really trust the author. Maybe not then. This is still (STILL!) limiting the kinds of books I really feel like reading.

E) I am particularly repulsed by any story that puts the protagonist or important secondary characters in acutely embarrassing situations, perhaps for humorous effect. I have, seriously, no tolerance at all for that. I’m not likely to get through that scene. This is most likely to happen with romances.

F) My interest just … petered out for no clear reason. I quit opening the book to go on with it. Nothing was causing me to recoil. I just lost interest.

This is the same as one of the above reasons too, the “too easy to put down” reason. I always feel bad about this, especially if I got more than halfway through the book. I just did not really care. Sometimes the protagonist makes a choice I don’t understand or a stupid decision. That can make me pause and then I may be kind of reluctant to go on and then I get less interested. But sometimes I just lose interest for no obvious reason. I think that happens more often than it used to.

However, even though I’m all about not wasting time reading books I don’t like, I will often finish books that are only moderately engaging. That’s because being able to put a book down is a feature, not a bug, if I have stuff of my own I’m working on, which I do almost all the time these days.

And finally,

G) The book is too difficult. The setting is too astonishing. The prose is too good.

I know, right? This is all completely unfair to the book. But this is the opposite of “moderately engaging.” These are books the reader has to really pay attention to. And I don’t have time or attention to spare because I have deadlines, self-imposed or otherwise, and do not want to stop and read something to which I have to truly pay attention.

If the book is engaging enough, I’ll get over that hump. But I may read just, I don’t know, two pages and say, “LATER! LATER WHEN I HAVE TIME!” And that is why my TBR pile is so extreme and why it is taking me three years or whatever to get around to reading plenty of really good books.

There are increasing numbers of books on my Kindle that fit this latter category.

That is, alas (?), probably going to continue because I have just no shortage of books of my own I want to work on.

You know what has become a hundred times more inviting over the last week? Anything on my TBR pile? No: the idea of writing a direct sequel to NO FOREIGN SKY. I am so, so easy to influence. All it takes is a handful of positive comments and great reviews and boom! I instantly feel much more happy about the book and much more inclined to go on with the series. I was so bored with proofreading NO FOREIGN SKY, but now that feeling has vanished like the mist and I’m starting to think, Okay, how could I maintain a fast pace like that in a sequel? Maybe I should try throwing a very brief outline together...

I hit a new-to-me low in numbers of books read last year, probably. I can see that is likely to happen again this year. The number of books I barely try or DNF is probably even going to increase. Well, that’s too bad, but here we are. Someone needs to invent Magic Clones or something so I can both work on my own books and simultaneously read other people’s books.

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Update: And suddenly there is just one puppy

Bo, which is to say Anara Quintessential Bodhisattva, with his New Person at his New Home. May he have a wonderful life!

Wow, it is always something of a shock to let all the puppies go, especially when they go so fast, one after another. I sent Morgan’s tri boy off first, then her Blen boy — that’s him above, as you may realize — then a short pause. Then Leda’s Girl 2 left me this past Saturday, Boy 2 Sunday, and Boy 1 this morning. Ouch, seriously.

I’m glad I’m keeping one. Even if I decide to place her later, I definitely prefer to have a puppy underfoot for awhile. Here she is, my personal puppy, nibbling my toes. Luckily I am not ticklish.

Her name, by the way, is Anara Rhapsody in Lavender. Her mother’s name is Anara Lavender Rose, you see, and Rhapsody is a nice R word. I named her sister Anara Rhapsody in Blue, which turned out to please her new person, as he is a Gershwin fan.

But it’s rather difficult to turn Rhapsody into a call name. Rap? No. Soda? No. Happy? No. Lavey? No no no.

Right now I’m calling her DeeDee. If you squint, you can see the “dee” in “Rhapsody.” Dee is too short for a puppy name, but DeeDee is okay. I might change it later, but for now, DeeDee. Which also sounds quite a bit like PuppyPuppy, which is what I start off calling nearly all of them, so she’s already learned to come to me when she hears her name.

She is a very sweet puppy, but — I think I said this in a previous post — not the most confident. So this week, many short drives to nice friendly places that are not too overwhelming. With treats. Treats are always good.

Meanwhile! Gosh, look, this is a rough draft after all!

I sort of remembered this as finished.

I skimmed through the first book quickly and was pleased. Then I started this book, the second half of the story. It was fine, fine, fine, then boom! I hit chapter ten and suddenly realized that yep, this is indeed a rough draft. I had known that, in sort of vague terms, but it has been a year since I wrote this draft and now, ouch, this looks pretty rough. The first part of the revision will be very easy: I just need to pick up elements that appear in the second book and foreshadow them properly in the first book. The second part of the revision will be MUCH MORE DIFFICULT, as I smooth out chapters ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, and fourteen. And fifteen. Hey, at least the last part of the book is in much better shape! But yes, I can now guarantee this project will not be finished by June 1. I’m definitely aiming for June 15th. That is probably fairly realistic.

One thing I’ve noted to myself — I leave BOLDED notes scattered through the text — is that I have two sections where I sum up what has been happening. I think I will replace both of those with the action rather than a summary. That will make this book longer. That is fine. Once I decided to cut the story in half, suddenly there was room to expand either or both books. That’s feeling like something of a luxury after tightening tightening tightening TASMAKAT. Which will still be substantially longer than this complete duology, but I am resigned to TASMAKAT being a total monster.

Anyway, this revision is what I worked on last week and what I will be working on this week, with little side quests around the edges. For example, I’m putting together my next newsletter. I think I will be running some unusual sales of books I don’t normally put on sale; I’ll put information about that in there. And I think I’ll include the current table of contents for the Tuyo World Companion. That way if anybody wants to suggest something else that might go in that book, they can. I’m still working on that, of course. That’s why it will be the “current” ToC. That’s another of the side quests.

I am including recipes, by the way. A couple Ugaro, a couple Lau, a couple Lakasha. I had to order barley flour from Amazon in order to test the Ugaro recipes properly, as the Ugaro have limited wheat flour and use more barley flour. Can you believe I couldn’t find barley flour either at the local health food store OR at Global Foods? Well, Amazon had it.

I love Global Foods, which is in a suburb of St. Louis. I haven’t been there for a long time, probably not since before Covid. I bought lots of cool stuff, many treats I do not usually have handy. But I thought you might enjoy a picture of the single weirdest item I spotted at Global Foods. Here you go:

I think I have a pretty decent imagination, but I could not have come up with that. On the off chance that any of you have tried this, what did you think? In the more probable case that you haven’t, would you have bought this just to see what it was like? I don’t like alcohol, so I didn’t. I wasn’t sure this would contain alcohol, but “fermented” suggested it might. Apparently it doesn’t. The link goes to an article. Here is part of the abstract. The conclusion may not be entirely unbiased.

Shalgam is a traditional Turkish beverage produced by lactic acid fermentation. … In shalgam production, bulgur flour salt, water, purple carrot, turnip, and sometimes red beet is used… Shalgam is a probiotic food and a good source of nutrients. It helps regulate the pH of the digestive system. It contains β-carotene, group B vitamins, calcium, potassium, and iron. People also use it as a medicine because of its antiseptic agents. Shalgam consumption should be increased and become worldwide.

It would be easier to get people to try it if you called it “shalgam” rather than “fermented hot black carrot juice,” probably. I do try to get something I have never heard of every time I’m at Global Foods. This time I got mulberry molasses. I was quite disappointed. Pomegranate molasses is concentrated pomegranate juice and it’s great. This mulberry molasses just tastes like molasses. I like gingerbread fine, but I can get ordinary molasses to make that. When I found out that the mulberry molasses doesn’t taste like mulberries at all, I looked on Amazon for mulberry preserves. Wow. That exists, but it is VERY PRICEY. However, it is not as pricey as it could be! There are hilariously wrong prices at Amazon. The link goes to a jar that is 16 oz for $28. You know what it says? It says the jar costs $28 OR $28 PER GRAM. That’s what it says! ($28.23 / gram)! There are 454 grams in 16 ounces, so at $28.23 per gram, that would be $12,816 for a 1 lb jar! Ha ha ha, whoops, that is funny! If mulberries were actually worth that much, I would climb my mulberry tree and pick the mulberries! Anyway, I guess I will live without mulberry preserves for the moment, even the jars that are advertised at a more sensible $21 for 2 1-lb jars.

Anyway! That was last week, and this week should be calm, relatively speaking, and pleasant, and since it will be blazingly, unendurably hot, no doubt I will stay inside and not take dogs to the park and that means I will get a lot done. Welcome to summer, and happy Memorial Day!

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First vs Third

These posts are both from Jerry Jenkins’s blog, and they are of course complementary:

5 Tips to Mastering First-Person Point of View


Writing in Third-Person Point of View

And, while we’re at it, why not add this:

Interview with Sherwood Smith on Omniscient Point of View

Because Sherwood Smith is one of the few authors I can think of who writes in Omniscient. So does Judith Merkel Riley. I can’t immediately think of anybody else, though obviously there are others. I’m sure. Um. Who else? If you can think of other authors who do omniscient well, who are they?

Anyway, what does Jenkins say about first? He says this:

Why Use the First-Person Point of View? I recommend this approach because it forces you to limit yourself to the mind, the emotions, and the senses of a single character. Limiting yourself to a single point of view character is a cardinal rule of writing.

My response: It is not.

It totally is not! Where did that even come from? Limiting yourself to a single pov character is a cardinal rule of writing, seriously? That is so blazingly, obviously not true that … I’m trying for a reasonable simile here … it’s like saying that limiting yourself to using only periods and commas is a cardinal rule of grammar. It isn’t even a little bit true! It’s totally wrong!

Here are some things that are true:

Limiting yourself to a single pov character may make your job as a writer easier in some ways, although it will make your task harder in other ways. You only need to capture one character’s unique point of view, but you will not be able to show anything happening if your one pov character is not present.

That’s how I would sum up the choice to have just one pov character. To me, the above statement encapsulates the biggest advantage and the biggest disadvantage when you limit yourself that way. This is one reason (not the only reason) that my first … let me see … eight? Eight or so novels all featured more than one pov protagonist. Because that’s dramatically easier in some ways! Especially because you can show different things happening at different places! This is obvious! How is this not obvious?


Limiting yourself to one pov character is not the thing that matters most about first person points of view! Not even close! The things that matter most about first person are:

  1. You have to capture the protagonist’s unique voice.
  2. You have to overcome the distancing that occurs when telling a story in first person.
  3. Verb tenses are harder to handle in first person past tense.

You always have to capture the unique voice(s) of the protagonist(s), but that’s more important in first person than any other form.

I realize that (2) is not what people think. I know that first person is supposed to draw the reader closer to the protagonist. I don’t think that is actually true. I think first person, done well, captures the character’s voice and therefore makes it super clear that this person is not the reader. This is fine! But first person is also inherently less reliable because absolutely everything is filtered through the expectations, feelings, and assumptions of the protagonist. First person is is great for making the character seem like a real person, but I don’t think first person makes the reader feel any closer to the protagonist than close third. If the reader doesn’t like the protagonist, that dislike is probably going to become much stronger if the narrative is first person rather than third. Anyway, that’s what I think can happen.

I’ve said many times that verb tenses are more challenging in first person. That’s because statements about the world usually need to be in present tense, while the story itself usually needs to be in past tense. And what does Jenkins say? Don’t switch verb tenses. I think this is the wrong advice, given in the wrong way, addressing the wrong problem. From what he says about this, he means: Don’t screw up the grammar of your sentences. That is far, far too basic to need to be said. Yes, sure, definitely don’t screw up the grammar of your sentences except on purpose to achieve a specific effect. Don’t make grammatical mistakes accidentally. There’s nothing special about first person in that regard.

Well, I’m peeved at that post. Let me look at the one that focuses on third person. Let’s see.

Third person limited vs third person omniscient. Jenkins does not recommend the latter. I think there are actually three — at least three — forms of third person:

a) Close third, also called third person limited, but I mean more than limited. I mean close, as in intimate. I mean the style where the author is using third person pronouns, but is rather seldom saying “he thought” or “he mused” or “he considered.” The point of view is so clearly within the character’s head that tags like that become largely extraneous. I mean, here’s a bit from NO FOREIGN SKY, from Taya’s point of view:


She had already learned a lot of easy words: head and eye, mouth and teeth, eat and drink, bread and sandwich and lemonade—that was a kind of sweet-tart fruit juice that Taya liked far better than the hot, bitter drink Lieutenant Lockwood had brought her. But she was feeling more awake and the headache that had been pressing behind her eyes had eased. Maybe the drink was medicinal. That would explain why people drank it.

Lieutenant Lockwood had also taught her the connecting words, which were sometimes difficult. Into, out of, beside, before, behind. Do and doing, act and action. Lieutenant Lockwood was impatient and unfriendly, but he knew what was important.

What will you do? I will walk across this room. I will throw this bread. I will catch this bread. What are you doing? I am walking, I am throwing, I am catching. What have you done? I have walked, I have thrown, I have caught. Do was for questions about actions in the future, except that sometimes it was for questions about the past. Doing was for questions about actions now. Done was always for questions about actions in the past. Verbs were like that; they changed for future and present and past, except they didn’t change all the time or all in the same way. Taya had developed a real dislike for English verbs.


This is pretty close third person.

b) Then there’s distant third, still limited, in which the author does use frequent tags such as “he thought.” The reader is farther from the protagonist. Here are the exact same paragraphs, revised into more distant third person:


She had already learned a lot of easy words: head and eye, mouth and teeth, eat and drink, bread and sandwich and lemonade—that was a kind of sweet-tart fruit juice that Taya liked far better than the hot, bitter drink Lieutenant Lockwood had brought her. But she was feeling more awake and the headache that had been pressing behind her eyes had eased. Taya thought maybe the drink was medicinal. That would explain why people drank it.

Lieutenant Lockwood had also taught her the connecting words, which Taya sometimes found difficult. Into, out of, beside, before, behind. Do and doing, act and action. She didn’t like how Lieutenant Lockwood was impatient and unfriendly, but she had decided that he knew what was important.

Taya recited English phrases to herself. What will you do? I will walk across this room. I will throw this bread. I will catch this bread. What are you doing? I am walking, I am throwing, I am catching. What have you done? I have walked, I have thrown, I have caught. She knew now that do was for questions about actions in the future, except that sometimes it was for questions about the past. Doing was for questions about actions now. Done was always for questions about actions in the past. Verbs were like that; they changed for future and present and past, except they didn’t change all the time or all in the same way. Taya had developed a real dislike for English verbs.


This is not exactly the same. The more frequent “Taya thought, she knew, Taya decided” tags push the reader a little farther from the character. This can be all right — it can be fine — it depends! When writing in third, I think most authors shift the level of intimacy up and down depending on the scene. But not always. CJ Cherryh almost always keeps the reader very close to her third person protagonists. She’s a great author to look at for examples of well-done intimate third. I’m pretty sure I started writing in closer third once someone — don’t remember who, sorry — pointed this out to me using Cherryh as the example. After that I started paying real attention to how close third person can get.

What does Jenkins say? Again, he says you shouldn’t make verb tense mistakes, which again does not really need to be said, and adds that when writing in third person, the author is probably going to have to indicate the emotions and states of mind of other characters with phrases such as, “he seemed” and “she might,” and “as though he” and so on, as only the protagonist’s emotions are going to be directly known to the reader.

Which is fine. But the reader might not have access to even the protagonist’s emotions or state of mind, because there’s also:

c) third person objective, where a neutral narrator is relating the story, but probably without access to any character’s thoughts or emotions. That’s also called camera third person, or the camera eye, where the observer — the reader — is perched on the protagonist’s shoulder, but without access to the protagonist’s feelings.

THEN, after that, there’s

d) true omniscient, where the narrator knows everything and explains not only the actions of the characters, but all their thoughts and emotions, and possibly the narrator includes commentary about all the characters as well. Now THAT is tough, or at least it would be tough for me. I’m slowly re-reading Sherwood Smith’s Inda quadrilogy, which is written in omniscient. In the linked post, Sherwood says:

With Inda—with any big, braided story—I find limited third so, um, limiting. It’s so difficult to get all the POVs in you want and not jerk the reader back and forth in time, or break the narrative into little scenes in order to properly isolate those POV changes. If you’ve got a narrator, and know why that narrator is telling the story, I think one can better see the entire structure of the novel, and determine how many POVs to use, where, and when.

It seems to me, in many of her books, Sherwood does break the narrative into little scenes. Less so in the Inda series than some others, though.

I just find it unbelievably weird to think about being in the head of multiple characters in the same scene. Writing in omniscient would be an interesting exercise for me, but it’s not something I have any inclination to try seriously.

I do recommend Judith Merkle Riley for another example of omniscient that’s really well done, though.


Obviously you should write the novel in whatever narrative style works for you and for the story. Personally, I like intimate third person and have shifted from a more distant third to a closer third over time.

I used to be unable to handle first, and now that I think about that, the biggest problem was not the voice, it was that a first-person story implies that the protagonist is telling the story to someone else after the fact. I didn’t mention this as a potential problem, but maybe I should have. First person indicates that the protagonist survived the action to tell the story, and also implies that the protagonist is speaking to someone. To whom is the protagonist speaking? And under what circumstances? I used to get distracted by those questions and then I would lose the ability to tell the story, which is why I have several unfinished stories in first person lingering on my computer from a zillion years ago.

When I started TUYO, I thought I knew the answers to those questions for Ryo. I thought he was probably telling the story to Darra. Over time, I think I have changed my mind about that, but it doesn’t matter. Having those questions semi-sorted-out in my head was enough to let me relax and write the story. When I wrote TANO, I didn’t even think about that, so I guess first person just feels more natural to me now. As perhaps one would expect, as I’ve written something on the close order of 800,000 words in first person in the TUYO world now. It’s be a bit weird if that hadn’t made a difference.

In general, I still think third is easiest and I still like intimate third best MOST of the time, for MOST stories.

My personal least favorite ever is first person present tense, which as a rule pushes me hard away from the story, and I’m glad that the trend toward that style started by The Hunger Games seems to have gradually ended, even in YA, where it was certainly popular for a while.

I agree with Jenkins and most others that omniscient is difficult for MOST authors and should not be your first choice unless you are one of the exceptions and intrinsically find omniscient easy. Should that be so, I would personally suggest you relax and let yourself write in omniscient. Done well, it’s fine, like any other narrative choice. Just as The Hunger Games brought first person present tense into vogue, a really well done series in omniscient could perfectly well do the same.

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Publication Timeline

This post at Writers Helping Writers sure seems relevant to me this year — Creating a Publication Timeline for Your Next Release

Publishing your own book is a lot like juggling—and not those harmless little balls, either. Try a couple of balls, a chainsaw, a set of Ginsu knives, and a litter of kittens.

Well, it’s not that bad. Minus the chainsaw for sure. Things can go wrong, but not THAT wrong.

This post suggests the following checklist:

Write the draft, revise the draft, hire an editor (I assume the include more revision here), cover design, formatting, marketing, hitting publish. They often lump a lot off stuff together. They then assign estimated time for each step, which seems optimistic of them.

In my experience so far, along with “everything takes longer,” you can add, “at least one thing will take even longer than that.”

BUT, all this isn’t the only thing to consider, because there’s also tactical questions such as: How close together do you want to release a novel and its sequel? How long will the boost to visibility and thus royalties last after you release one book and does that mean you should adjust the release date of the next book, if that’s possible? How often do you want to run promotions and do you want to do that right before or possibly right after a new release? Or a month later? Two months?

Anyway, this post is very formal about it, with a spreadsheet that has each task and sub-task, with how long it might take to complete plus the date on which it should be completed. I’m sure that’s a good idea. Well, I’m not that sure. Updating all those dates would be a pain after life causes some deadline on your spreadsheet to whiz past unnoticed and suddenly you’re behind. I think I would be inclined to look at a spreadsheet like this and add a month to it. Maybe two months, just to be safe.

I think I do it more like this:

A) Complete the draft, or get it nearly completed. Books are SO different from each other. I don’t like to predict how long any given title will take. Once you have the draft nearly finished, THEN you can consider the timing of everything else.

I would never in a million years put a book up for preorder before mostly finishing a draft. What if something went wrong? What if I got stuck, as happened with INVICTUS for THREE YEARS? I do not have a gambling temperament, I guess.

B) Except, whoops, order the cover before the draft is near completion. Otherwise you may be waiting for the cover after every other duck is cooperatively lined up in a row, which is frustrating. I think I have all covers in order for the rest of the year, or nearly, so that’s fine.

C) Once the draft is completed, or nearly completed, pick a preorder date that seems reasonable given the amount of revision you think you’re likely to need to do and how long that ought to take. Add a month for proofreading. Or two months. Add an extra month just to be safe. Put the book up for preorder …

… and here is a tactical consideration. Did you know that if you put a series book up as a preorder, that changes something important on the series page? I did not know that until very recently.

Usually, if you are on a series page such as this one, at the top, the page will helpfully tell you how many of the books in that series you already own and offer you an option to buy the rest of the series with one easy click. BUT if there is a later installment in that series that is up for preorder, as with this series, then the helpful “Buy the rest of the series now” button will vanish. It will not come back until the preorder date arrives.

This is a serious consideration if you are publishing a series book. If you’re going to run a series promo, it makes sense to have that button at the top, encouraging people to buy the whole series. So, do you want to put the next book in the series up for preorder? Are you sure? If you do put it up for preorder, possibly it would be better not to link the new book to the series. Just let Amazon fail to realize it’s a series book. Then you can tell people it’s there and direct people to it, but without losing the “buy the series” button on the series page. You can link it later, after the preorder date has passed.

I didn’t know a thing about this when I put TASMAKAT up for preorder six months in advance.


C) If it’s the first book in a series or a standalone, sure, do a preorder. If it’s a series novel, CONSIDER putting the book up for preorder, and if you do a preorder, decide whether to link the book to an existing series.

What is you have a book already scheduled for release March 1? That becomes a tactical element when considering whether the next one should release in April, May, June, or exactly when would be best? Opinions differ. This year, you will have noticed, I’m releasing a new book every two months with some unevenness to the schedule. That is, the INVICTUS books are closer together because of the (sorry!) cliffhanger in the middle. Also, I’m guessing the TUYO World Companion will be ready for release shortly before TASMAKAT. We’ll see how all this goes.

D) This is also the time to think about promotion, not later. Before the release? After? According to David Gaughran, it’s best to have moderate sales build over five days, not sales spike and then fall. That’s also a consideration when deciding about preorders, which will intrinsically cause a spike-and-fall pattern. If you set up a five-day promo, put the weaker performing promotion services at the front and built to the better performers, says Gaughran. I’ve never done it that way. Next time I will. If he’s right, then with luck that will keep sales from falling as fast after the promo. Though I found the benefit of the March promotions lasted right through April, so that wasn’t bad.

E) Beta readers. Revision.

Did you know you have to schedule promotion no more than a month ahead with some services, but three months ahead with others? Maybe you better think about that now, before completing revision. This is where is starts to feel like you’re juggling kittens.

F) Proofing. More proofing than that. NO, MORE THAN THAT.

Is the cover ready? If not, that may become an urgent question shortly.

G) Formatting, which you hardly need to consider on a timeline. It honestly doesn’t take long. It’s boring and tedious, yes, and that makes it stand out as a Thing You Have To Do, but honestly, an hour or two will take care of it for a normal-sized book. (I’m gritting my teeth at the thought of formatting the paperback and hardcover versions of TASMAKAT. Maybe I better plan two or three days so it doesn’t get so infuriatingly tedious.)

There you go, you are now ready to hit publish or let the book release.

WAIT. No matter how good your proofreaders are, maybe you better proofread it yourself ONE MORE TIME.

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Recent Reading: The Lake House by Sarah Beth Durst

Okay, so I guess I was in the mood for a lightly suspenseful YA novel with supernatural elements, so I read The Lake House.

What we’ve got here is a survival story with a supernatural evil entity added to the ordinary problems of surviving in the Maine woods in the summer. We’ve got three girls who were supposed to be staying at a summer camp for a month or two, but they get there and find the house burned down and a woman’s body in the woods. They don’t discover that until the boat that dropped them off has disappeared into the distance. This is, you might say, a problem. Claire is the pov protagonist. You may remember her from this beginning here:

Clair excelled at three things: ballet, homework, and identifying all the ways there were to die in any given situation. Like now, on this boat. She couldn’t stop thinking about how easy it would be to be knocked off the side, hit your head as you fell, and drown.

Less likely: being guillotined by a fishing ine.

Also unlikely but still possible: being pierced by shrapnel if the engine exploded.

She fidgeted with her life jacket, touching the three buckles in rapid succession, until she felt reassured they were secure.

I hate boats, she decided.

She also hated airplanes, particularly the minuscule prop planes that felt as if they’d been assembled by a five-year-old with unfettered access to glue. That had been the other option for the trip to the Lake House — itty-bitty prop plane. There were no roads.

Apparently I was in the mood for a story like this because I read it promptly. It had a lot going for it – tension, but not too much tension; quick pace; relatively simply story; relatively simple characters; therefore easy to read and engaging without being so distracting that I couldn’t put it down.

So, what did I think of it?

The Characters:

Claire is a fine protagonist. Not particularly complex. She thinks of herself as a pessimist, which she sort of is. Actually, she tends to catastrophize and then have panic attacks, so that’s not exactly the same as pessimism. She is also a problem solver. She thinks of all the things that could conceivably go wrong and then she thinks of what to do about those things.

So Claire has this problem: panic attacks. She has a bigger problem: her parents get frantic when she has a panic attack. The panic attacks constitute a secret she is very uncomfortable revealing. Her parents’ inability to handle that problem in a sensible way make Claire feel this is a hopelessly dire problem rather than something to handle sensibly. Not that I’m judgmental. Wait, I am totally judgmental, because I think the parents are extroverts and they are trying to force Claire, an introvert, to be extroverted. This is not said in so many words, but it definitely seems like that to me. That really annoys me, so I am not willing to cut Claire’s parents a lot of slack. Especially since they accidentally sent their kid to a haunted summer camp.

The other two girls are Reyva and Mariana. Reyva is tough. She has been competing in some kind of mixed martial arts, a division for little kids, since she was a little kid. She is not magic, however, which means that she is a teenage girl, not Batman in disguise. I don’t think the ages of the girls are stated outright, but I got the impression they are young teens, like fourteen. Reyva has, by the way, a secret she is very uncomfortable revealing. Mariana is good with engines and other mechanical things. She is flashy and pretty and knows how to flirt. She has, you will not be surprised to learn, a secret she is very uncomfortable revealing.

The Plot:

So then these girls get to the camp, the house has burned down, everyone else is presumed dead, they find this woman’s body and assume that was the camp director. She’s been shot, by the way, not burned to death in the house fire. The boat is long gone. They have supplies, but that’s things like clothes, not things like waterproof matches or a field guide to the Wild Edibles of Maine.

Then things go wrong, and more wrong, and more wrong. The reader probably suspects supernatural evil pretty early, even without reviews and hints. However, there are unexpected plot twists sprinkled through the story, Even if the astute reader sees A LOT OF THINGS COMING, which is certainly likely, I don’t think the reader is going to see ALL the things.

The story is fast paced and fun, if you like MG/YA supernatural suspense. The Grrrl Power message is pretty heavy-handed, but, I mean, as messages go, that one is not disagreeable. I enjoyed the story. I see one review says the survival skills of the girls seem over the top. I disagree. I thought their struggles to find food and shelter seemed quite believable. Other things seemed possibly over the top instead.


As you know, I have low (really, really low) tolerance for character stupidity. Now, I grant, if you live in the Real World, then supernatural evil entities are not going to be on your top ten list of possible problems. I don’t fault the girls for not picking up on that until there is absolutely no possible way to miss it. When the girls come up with a reasonable explanation for what’s going on, it’s not a stupid explanation. It’s actually a pretty plausible explanation. So I think all this is fine.

Here are the things that did bother me:

  • There are no bodies and no evidence of bodies, other than the woman who has been shot. There is not the slightest sign of the presumed other kids who supposedly died in the fire. Granted, the house burned pretty thoroughly. But … none of the other kids got out? None of them? There are no signs that other kids were ever there. None.
  • The outbuildings and the little landing strip for tiny planes look run down and derelict, not refurbished as one might expect with a summer camp that is just reopening now after being closed for a long time.
  • There is a trapdoor in one of the outbuildings, with a ladder, that leads down to a hidden-ish room that contains a cage. In the cage, there are shackles. That is the word used: Shackles. The girls, exploring, look at this and conclude that maybe someone was keeping a dog or wolf or bear, and not being at all nice to the poor animal. How, you may ask, can they possibly think for one second of that explanation? How many people use shackles to confine a dog, wolf, or bear? Raise your hand if you have ever heard the word “shackles” used in a non-metaphorical way when the word meant anything at all other than shackling a human prisoner. Anybody?

Right, I didn’t think so.

Later, when the girls are told outright that the camp never reopened, that it has been derelict for 20 years, that no other kids were present when the house burned, they don’t seem to entertain for even a second that this might be true, although it is obviously true.

I don’t want to go into details, but the girls also miss various other obvious things. It’s just stunning how long it takes them to think shackles = prisoner. Granted, I was also wrong about who put those shackles there and why, but at least I didn’t think anybody put shackles in place to confine a dog or wolf. Let me just add that there are plenty of words that could have been used instead of “shackles” that might have obfuscated the situation a bit better, such as “chains.”

Okay. Moving on.

Other Quibbles:

You are stranded without supplies on an island in the middle of the Maine woods. You are worried about possible bacterial contamination of the lake water. You refuse to drink lake water or even the water in fast-running streams. This dedicated refusal to drink the extremely abundant water lasts until:

a) You are thirsty.

b) For day after day, even while you are severely dehydrated.

Anybody pick (b)? Does anybody find (b) remotely plausible? I realize I am perhaps in the unusual position of having gone camping in Canada for a month, on a canoe trip, in which everyone drank the lake water without boiling it and nobody got sick. My concern about bacterial contamination of the water of a vast lake in Maine is therefore perhaps somewhat lower than the next person’s. However, nobody, and I mean nobody, is going to suffer serious dehydration when there is a vast lake full of crystal-clear, cold, sweet water sitting right there, never mind streams.

    This bothered me pretty much all the time while I was reading the story. Sorry. I realize this is an idiosyncratic reaction. However, I assure you that if you are ever running for your life from madmen with guns, or zombies, or ancient evil spirits, or any other dire danger, in a cold climate, it’s almost certainly fine to drink the water. Especially since dehydration will weaken you a whole lot faster than most bacterial illnesses. You aren’t going to get cholera way out in the Maine woods because nobody with cholera is around to contaminate the water. Things like giardia, while unpleasant, are far less debilitating than dehydration, and you aren’t particularly likely to catch that anyway.

    Overall Reaction:

    A fun story! Grrrl Power, yay! I did genuinely like the three girls and their friendship and the way they supported each other. Sure, the characters are a little simplistic, but they suit the story and the style, which is an important consideration that I think sometimes isn’t sufficiently appreciated. I’m thinking here of the paper-flat characters in Mary Doria Russell’s Sparrow and Children of God, which so perfectly suit the story Russell is telling there. That’s perhaps a different blog post. Also, I should add that the worst things I’ve ever read in SFF occur in that duology, so I am not necessarily suggesting you rush out and read it. My point here is that this story is well put together, fast, fun, and enjoyable. The reader is likely to cheer for the girls as they pull together and cope with one dire problem after another. I liked the ending and then the denouement.

    If you have a twelve- to fourteen-year-old girl around and she likes suspense and adventure stories, here you go, I think this story is probably just about perfect for that group of readers. If you are in the mood for a MG/YA suspense and adventure story that centers friendship, again, here you go; I bet you will enjoy this story.

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    Nebula Winners

    Noticed this post at Here Are the Winners of the 2022 Nebula Awards

    Yes, I totally lost track, was not paying attention, have no clue who was nominated for what. Still, sure, I’m mildly interested. Let’s take a look:

    • Legends & Lattes, Travis Baldree
    • Spear, Nicola Griffith
    • Nettle and Bone, T. Kingfisher
    • Babel, Or the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators’ Revolution, R.F. Kuang
    • Nona the Ninth, Tamsyn Muir
    • The Mountain in the Sea, Ray Nayler

    Oh, look, something by Nicola Griffith! What is that? Oh, it’s her Arthurian retelling. I knew about that, but wasn’t interested enough to pick it up.

    She grows up in the wild wood, in a cave with her mother, but visions of a faraway lake drift to her on the spring breeze, scented with promise. And when she hears a traveler speak of Artos, king of Caer Leon, she decides her future lies at his court. So, brimming with magic and eager to test her strength, she breaks her covenant with her mother and sets out on her bony gelding for Caer Leon. With her stolen hunting spear and mended armour, she is an unlikely hero, not a chosen one, but one who forges her own bright path. Aflame with determination, she begins a journey of magic and mystery, love, lust and fights to death. On her adventures, she will steal the hearts of beautiful women, fight warriors and sorcerers, and make a place to call home.

    I’m sure it’s good, but I’m so firmly waiting for the sequel to HILD that I haven’t been inclined to pick it up. Perhaps that’s not fair. Probably I should at least get a sample. It’s just my TBR pile is brimming over already, plus I sort of feel that Mary Stewart’s Arthurian trilogy, the Merlin trilogy, hit the sweet spot for me. Other Arthurian retellings just don’t appeal to me that much, as a rule. I see there’s no Kindle edition. That’s a shame.

    I haven’t read any of these, not even Nettle and Bone, and I actually do have that one. I think. I definitely have something by Kingfisher I haven’t read yet. I think it’s this one, but I wouldn’t swear to it.

    I think the winner, Babel and the rest of it, has a remarkably unwieldy title. But it does sound interesting.

    Okay, the next novel category:

    Andre Norton Nebula Award for Middle Grade and Young Adult Fiction
    • Ruby Finley vs. the Interstellar Invasion, K. Tempest Bradford
    • The Scratch Daughters, H. A. Clarke
    • The Mirrorwood, Deva Fagan
    • The Many Half-Lived Lives of Sam Sylvester, Maya MacGregor
    • Every Bird a Prince, Jenn Reese

    Oh, Jenn Reese had a nominated novel! Good for her. I haven’t heard of any of these. I’ve just been so severely out of touch with upcoming and just-released titles, it’s not even funny.

    If any of you have read any of these, what did you think?

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    Update: Finished! Moving on! Yay!

    Okay, so, finally finished the draft of “Hokino’s Knife,” which turned out to be 37,000 words. We’ll see how much it changes, but that’s a decent length.

    I’m not sure it’s ever taking me that long to write 37,000 words before. [Probably, but I don’t remember.] So many adorable little distractions running about! I am now losing the little distractions, which is a bit distracting in a different way. Always difficult to let the little ones go, as you can imagine. That’s true even though it’s great to have fewer trips up and down the stairs, and it’s more true when the puppies are practically housetrained, as they are very little trouble at that point, obviously.

    Here is Morgan’s Tricolor Boy, Anara Don Quixote, and yes, I have to keep looking up how to spell that. I forget what his new person is calling him, but this is the picture she sent me this morning. He has a new Blenheim “sibling,” they are already playing a little and I bet they will be buddies by this evening. I hear he slept through the night last night, always a great thing for the new owner.

    Anara Don Quixote in his new home

    Morgan’s Blen Boy — now Anara Quintessential Bodhisattva, by the way, and yes, I have to keep looking up how to spell that as well. I wanted a Q name, the children in his new family wanted Bodhisattva, so sure, no problem, there you go. Anyway, he will be leaving me this coming Wednesday. Just two days! That’s really hard to believe. He joined me and the big dogs downstairs last night, as I never leave a puppy all alone. He might have gone in with the four littler ones, but I thought he’d be fine downstairs with the rest of us and he was. He slept through the night too. Very good puppy, and usually my babies do sleep through the night by the time they’re nine weeks old, which these two puppies are today, as it happens. Oh, by the way, if you get a new puppy and it cries when you put it in the crate at night, no problem! Take the puppy into the bed with you and let him settle down and go to sleep in the bed. When he is asleep, pick him up and put him in the crate, preferably in the bedroom with you, of course. He will go back to sleep and there you go, all settled. This is by far the best way to settle a new puppy at night. I’m sure it doesn’t ALWAYS work, but it basically always works for me, and I’ve settled a lot of puppies into a new situation. In a week or so, probably the puppy will be fine in a crate — or else, I guess, you’ll be fine with the puppy on the bed!

    Anara Quintessential Bodhisattva (say that three times fast) with 14-year-old Elli. She does not appreciate puppies, but she does love her dog bed, so she is reluctantly sharing.

    I’m putting together an unusual puppy package for his new people. I have a (very) extensive library of books about dog training, books about dog breeding, books about dog genetics, books about dog breeds. I pulled out a couple good training books that emphasize positive training and are written in a simple, chatty style, and I’m giving those to Bo’s new family, along with all the copies of health certificates and whatever. I really ought to give away a lot of those books, as I basically memorized them many years ago and don’t actually look at them very often any more. I could donate a lot of them to the next CKCSC auction or something. I’m giving them a drying coat as well. This is a mesh coat you put on the dog after a bath to hold the coat flat and straight while he dries. Like anti-curlers. If they do show Bo in the breed ring, they will find it helpful. Drying coats aren’t that easy to find, I bought mine at CKCSC shows, I’m not sure they’re available elsewhere, and since I have extras, why not.

    I can’t believe I’m losing him Wednesday! Well, that does kind of go with the territory.

    I’ll be losing most of the little ones around the end of the month. Elli, too. Here’s Leda’s Boy Two, looking quizzical. You know, “Quizzical” would also be a great Q name! But I didn’t think of that, and this boy belongs to my R litter. I can’t remember right now whether I’ve mentioned that to all the new families. I had better come up with R names in a hurry so I have some to propose.

    Boy 2 wonders whether I might have a cookie tucked away somewhere. (I do.)

    Here’s Girl 1. This is the puppy I’m keeping for now. She is completely adorable despite the mark on her face. She has a very sweet, feminine head and expression. Heads do change and change again; bites correct and go off and correct again; one never quite knows what one has until the puppy has had time to actually grow up. For some, by the way, there’s an ugly duckling stage at around five months and you just look away and wait, because usually the puppy comes back together as it matures. Whatever structure you see at eight weeks, usually that is the structure you’re going to see again in the adult. I haven’t actually stacked these little ones up to look at them, they are not quite eight weeks, but I know Boy 2 has very nice structure. I think they are all nice. I know they all have pretty heads.

    Girl 1 is a pretty, gentle, slightly timid puppy

    I’m going to have to brace myself to lose all but Girl 1. Morgan will probably be happy to have Girl 1 around too. Not that Morgan isn’t aware that the big ones are hers, but I’m sure she will find having a little one around comforting. She gets playful with puppies as soon as they are old enough to be teased into chasing her. Leda, by the way, does not care. She is almost completely uninterested in the puppies. She does take a (very) slightly protective stance toward them, but that’s basically it. I’ll be working with Girl 1 to ease her into the world so she becomes confident and outgoing. We are, incidentally, seeing A LOT of shyness in the backyard bred and puppy mill Cavaliers. Some of that is how they are raised, but some is genetic. If you read in a breed book that Cavaliers are very outgoing, you had better add the note: well-bred Cavaliers, because you can get any kind of weird temperament in a badly bred puppy, and, as I say, we are seeing a lot of shyness in that population. Some aggression as well, which is unspeakably bad and incorrect for the breed.

    Regardless, the main socialization window is CLOSING at 12 weeks. If the puppy is not socialized at that point, everything you do is remedial and nothing works very well. That puppy is likely to be timid forever. This is important because vaccinations are not complete until 16 weeks, but if you wait until 16 weeks to begin socialization, you have left it too long and your puppy may be permanently shy. That’s not a problem for a puppy like Bodhisattva, who was born socialized — both those puppies were born socialized — and Girl 2 from Leda’s litter as well. Not sure about Leda’s boys, but Girl 1 was not “born socialized.” I am therefore going to socialize her carefully and make sure she grows into herself properly.


    In the other part of my life, I’m now picking up INVICTUS, again, and I honestly think I may be able to whip through the final revisions by … probably not June 1. But almost certainly before June 15. This is not, I’m pretty sure, going to be a big revision. Of course, once beta readers get a chance to read it, I expect I will have a little more revision to do. I hope not a BIG revision at that point either! I will probably be bored to tears with this story by the time proofreading is underway, but thankfully I’m not starting bored.

    Oh, on that note, let me add that I’m so very happy about the early reviews and star rating for NO FOREIGN SKY. It’s going up and down a bit, as expected. Ratings are volatile when there are so few ratings and reviews. 25 ratings, 77% five stars, one two-star, but you aren’t going to please every single reader, something I accepted long ago. I made a firm mental commitment ages and ages ago, a resolve to accept that no book is going to be universally beloved by all readers, that every single book is going to fail to appeal to some readers who ordinarily like my books, that it’s perfectly fine if a reader doesn’t like a book. I absolutely do not hold it against any reader if they do not like a particular book. You know what helps with that? Reminding myself that I could not finish CJCs Russian trilogy, that I hated Barbara Hambly’s Nazi duology, that I thought, and still think, that Patricia McKillip’s book Solstice Wood reaches back in time to ruin Winter Rose and should never have been written. And so on. There are basically no authors who have written more than ten books where I cannot point at one I dislike, sometimes absolutely loathe. And this is absolutely fine. I expect NFS to settle down at about 4.6 stars plus or minus a tenth of a star, and that will be excellent.

    Thank you all if you’ve left a review, and you know what? I am very suggestable! The moment I see these positive reviews, I’m instantly less bored … un-bored? de-bored? with this story and this universe. All the tedium of endless revision and proofreading vanishes into the past, poof! You know what I did last night? Sat down and kicked around ideas for the direct sequel with my brother. Worked out what the uut are like and why they are so vicious. Thought about where to start the sequel and you know, here is a great idea for an additional pov character.

    So I’m feeling a lot more (A LOT MORE) like I will probably write that sequel next year. I’m not sure that this will happen. But I am definitely sure that I feel a lot more enthusiastic about the possibility. That gives me a lot to work on next year. I want to definitely write two TUYO-world stories, one of which will certainly be a novel and the other I hope a long novella but who knows. That is the Lau story with the bodyguard and the Sinowa & Marag story, respectively. Then maybe this NFS sequel. Maybe the final book of The Floating Islands trilogy, and who knows, maybe if I write every single week requesting that RH reverts the rights to the first book to me, possibly they might do it? A novella-length epilogue for the Black Dog series, presuming Silver Circle gets written this year (still the plan!). What else? Oh, my mother would like me to go on with the Death’s Lady series sooner rather than later. There’s no end.

    Meanwhile, I’m also chugging along with the Tuyo World Companion.

    Aargh, alphabetizing the list of characters and places! I’m telling you, AARGH. I’m writing little comments for most characters and places, but that’s not the hard part — that’s the fun part. I’m not trying to avoid spoilers for TUYO, as absolutely everyone who buys the World Companion is of course going to have read TUYO. I’m being more careful about the other books and also providing little hooky comments with no spoilers for TASMAKAT. This is all, as I say, fun to do.

    The hard part is just tediously scrolling up and down to put names in order in the list. I’m doing the Ugaro characters alphabetically by tribe BUT without the “in-” prefix. That is, inGara is alphabetized by “G.” That prevents the letter “i” from being too insanely long. I’m putting in the Lau characters by last name first, but I don’t expect anybody to remember Geras’ last name, or even what letter it starts with (Does anybody remember Geras’ last name? No? Right, there you go), so I’m putting an entry in under “Geras” that says “See Karenasen, Geras Lan.” And so forth. “Lorellan” is a county name, not a family or personal name, so “Lorellan, county of” is one entry, while “Lorellan, lord of” is a different entry, with the two different lords of this county given by last name so that someone can scroll to them.

    I’m not putting in EVERY SINGLE NAMED CHARACTER because quite a lot of named characters are entirely unimportant and I absolutely do not have the patience to track all the names down and put them in this list when the character only appeared in passing. Just getting the characters who have more than a line of dialogue is hard enough.

    Anyway, not sure what else will happen with the World Companion. I sent the story off to beta readers and I hope they have time to read it. I wrote this story very slowly, with lots of interruptions and distractions, and although I think it is now coherent, I’m not sure. I usually hold a whole novel or a very big chunk of a novel in my head quite well as I write it, so it’s no problem to scroll up and down and fiddle with details and add foreshadowing and so on. I actually feel that I held all of TASMAKAT in my head that way, and it is almost exactly as long as three ordinary novels put together. But it seems to me I still held it all as a whole thing in my head while I was working on it. When I am writing a story too slowly, it turns out this is more difficult, even if the story is short. Short-ish. “Hokino’s Knife” is about 37,000 words right now, just 12% the length of TASMAKAT, and yet there I am, wondering if I might have lost bits of it here and there even when I read it from front to back.

    Well, over to beta readers and then we will see.

    Meanwhile! I thought you might enjoy these roses, which poured in great abundance over my gazebo last week. Picture this as you stand looking up at the top of a gazebo. I’m sorry I don’t recall the name of this rose, but I can tell you, it was a polyantha hybrid and it was supposedly a shrub rather than a climber. It is, I assure you, a climber.

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    Updated Invictus Back Cover Copy

    I think those of you who wanted to use the name Syova in both back cover descriptions were right, especially if there’s any chance of suggesting to prospective readers that the main character of the first book might die. I don’t even want to imply the possibility that the protagonist changes. I want to make it really clear that it’s the same protagonist throughout. On the other hand, in this version, I use both “Syova” and “Sevastien” in the last paragraph. To me, this seems fine. The intrinsic pov changes in that paragraph, and then changes back. I think this is clear. If you think I’m wrong, please say so. That is almost all that is changing in the description for the first book.

    I really do not want to spoil anything about the first book via the second book’s description. Maigan was absolutely right when she pointed out that this is a terrible thing to do to readers. That means not being very specific about the exact crisis. Ila takes a larger pov role in the second half of the story, which Craig knows because he’s read it, and that being so, he’s right to suggest that she should get mentioned in the back cover description of the second book.

    It’s great that everyone thinks short is good for the second book, but what do you think about this?



    Every soldier knows there are endless ways to die.
    Every Ubezhishche soldier knows there are far worse fates than death.

    Syova — Sevastien one zero two four, S line third modification — has survived the destruction of his own ship and an enemy station. But he was rescued by the wrong side — by Nalyn Ila, captain of the Elysian destroyer Invictus. Now Syova faces a difficult problem: How to persuade Captain Ila and her people that he is not an enemy combatant. That if there was an act of war, it was committed by her people, not his own.

    Syova is almost certain he was an innocent bystander of disaster … unless his own people set him up, aiming to get him aboard Invictus for reasons he can’t yet understand. Maybe they did. It’s just the kind of thing Ubezhishche Command might do.

    Nalyn Ila is almost certain Sevastien is an enemy agent, placed aboard her ship by Ubezhishche Command. But no one — not her own people nor the enemy nor Svova himself — can possibly guess what plans she might have for an Ubez soldier. Even if he actually is an innocent bystander, she may be able to use him to accomplish her private goals. And if he’s actually an enemy agent … that might be even better.



    No plan ever survives contact with the enemy.
    Especially when you can’t be certain which side is your enemy.

    Nalyn Ila did her best to lay plans for every imaginable contingency. But some contingencies were not imaginable. Now Ila has no choice but to change her plans as fast as she can, trying to stay one step ahead of disaster. Without Syova’s help, everything she has tried to achieve will certainly fail.

    Now that everyone’s secret plans have been revealed, Syova has no choice but to reassess everything he knows about his enemies … and his friends. The Ubezhishche people haven’t yet gone to war with Elysium … not quite. Now devastating war may be unavoidable. Unless Captain Ila is telling him the truth.

    With the survival of both his own people and hers at stake, Syova had better make all the right choices.


    What I’m largely trying to do is reveal that we’re trying to avoid a very serious war. I think that’s enough information about the crisis? Not too much information?

    Comments, please! Do you like the second book’s description? If something seems seriously off about it, please point.

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    Finished! Almost! I’m pretty sure!

    Okay, so obviously work on the story I’m including in the TUYO world companion has been slow and difficult, what with the many little distractions pattering about underfoot.

    The babies are spending a lot of time out of the puppy room / the playpen. Of course sometimes one of the babies makes a mistake, but obviously I have to let them make mistakes in order to say no no, please do that outside. Early corrections are a little nudge with my toe to push the puppy off balance and make him stop in, as it were, mid-mistake. Then a quick trip outside (another trip down the stairs, notice).

    On the plus side, both the bigger puppies can now come up AND go down the stairs by themselves. And I’m almost certain both are now going out on the deck to do their business, which is adequate, though I will be gently suggesting that going down the stairs to the yard is better.

    The tri boy will be leaving me on Sunday, by the way. He’s ready, but it will be a wrench.

    Doesn’t he look huge? He is actually only six pounds. His fat brother is seven. They will probably both wind up a perfectly ordinary eighteen pounds or so. That is Naamah near him, by the way, and Leda at the end of the couch. At this moment, the Blen puppy was lying tucked under my legs and Ish and Morgan were crowded on the pillows at the right-hand side of the couch.

    Anyway! So, I’ve had this clear idea about the ending of “Returning Hokino’s Knife” or whatever the title will turn out to be. I started in the wrong pov, realized that almost at once, switched to Arayo’s pov, realized I had fallen into first person, hauled myself back to third person, and then got the ending and that (finally) smoothed out the writing process.

    Only last night I GOT to the ending and … it wasn’t right. It wasn’t the ending.

    I wasn’t sure what to do about that, so I went to bed. Well, I took all the puppies out one last time and sat on the steps to watch them romp around and then carried them all back in and got them settled. THEN I went to bed. Then this morning I woke up about four AM (normal) and lay there thinking about that story while waiting for my alarm to go off. And I think now I have the ending in my head! The actual ending! I got up before my alarm went off so I could write down the crucial last moment quick before I forgot it, though actually I seldom forget crucial bits once I finally think of them.

    So, with any luck at all, I’ll be finishing this story this evening. Whew! It’s, I don’t know, probably about 40,000 words or so, about 120 pages, something like that. I guess that makes it a novella rather than a short story.

    The entire TUYO World Companion just ticked over 70,000 words, but the other part of it, the non-story part, will probably get longer. Heaven knows about the story. That could get shorter or maybe longer. I have a few notes about revision and then I guess I will be sending it to a beta reader to find out if it is a decent story. THEN I will put it up for preorder, because really, once the story is in decent shape, everything else is detail work. Plus I have the cover! So that means it can go up for preorder soon. I’m definitely thinking July 1 would be a great release date as long as I’m confident I can hit that. I’ll be able to make that call soon!

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