Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Coming Attractions

It’ll be a while before it’s released, but the Griffin Mage trilogy is getting a makeover when it goes into trade paperback this fall. Check this out —

Now, that’s pretty. I guess the cover might be tweaked still, but this is the one in the Orbit fall catalog, so probably not that much.

I don’t know, does it totally look like a romance? I think the rose in particular makes it look very romance-y. Don’t want to disappoint readers, but the romance aspects, while there, are not usually front-and-center in these three books.

I do like a romance, actually, but I kind of like to put it in around the edges, you know? And I particularly like to shift the romance off in a surprising direction rather than just having the first male character you meet fall in love with the first female character you meet. Though sometimes the characters make their own choices about that. In fact, in Book III, the characters made me change my mind about who was going to fall in love with whom about page 400 and had quite a bit of tweaking to do to adjust the whole book to fit the new romance.

The Griffin Mage books are interesting because I switched main characters with each book, though continuing characters play minor-to-important secondary roles as we go on. It’s like what Sharon Shinn did in her Archangel series or what Jemisin did in The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms trilogy — which I loved and nominated for a Nebula, by the way, and I was delighted to see it on the ballot — but what I mean is, same world in each book, but a whole different take on events because the main characters change.

I’ll have to ask Sharon if that was a deliberate decision on her part. For me, given the way Book I worked out, I really couldn’t make Kes the continuing main viewpoint character for the whole trilogy. But I had another problem also, because when I was just starting Book II, I had just finished a YA novel (The Floating Islands), and I had an enormously difficult time thinking of an adult, not YA, character and plot.

Finally I declared: FINE, the main character, whoeverhe is, is FORTY-TWO. That solved the YA problem and let me get on with it.

And it worked great. Gereint from Book II worked beautifully for me from the first scene straight through the book. And so did Lady Tehre, actually, though she didn’t walk on stage until much later.

And once I’d chosen different main characters for Book II, of course I was inclined to do the same again for Book III. Worked again, too. Honestly, I love long series where one character is the main viewpoint character for book after book, but I’m starting to wonder how the author does it. At least for now, it seems more natural to me to switch off.

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Indy pics

So, here’s the show team from last weekend:

Pippa, Adora, and Kenya

They look startled and intrigued because I am making noises like a duck to get their attention. See all that clutter between them? That’s eight green qualifying ribbons for Rally Obedience and regular Obedience, with five colored placement ribbons to go with the green. Then Adora’s second-place red ribbons for her conformation class — Nancy Maddox’s beautiful champion ruby girl won that class both days, drat it! But my Adora was a close second, I think.

Then there’s Kenya with her blue ribbon and her trophy. Gotta call a jeweler to engrave the bowl with her name. She’ll have the tenth and last spot on that trophy.

Now, just a few more pictures of my lovely girls:

Kenya

And yes, you’re right: Pippa is glamorous and lovely and INCREDIBLY photogenic and by all rights ought to be a champion in the breed ring rather than strictly in performance, but unfortunately she had pyometra when she was still quite young. She lost a litter of puppies, and had to be spayed. So that’s why I don’t show her in conformation, which is really to showcase breeding animals, see.

Okay, that’s it about the dogs for a while!

Tomorrow, a preview of the probable cover for the trade paperback Griffin Mage omnibus, coming out this fall! A very, very different cover from the mass market paperbacks, definitely meant to appeal to a different readership. Stop back in and see what you think of it!

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What a weekend!

First I got up at 4:00 AM on Thursday so I could give little Kenya a Dramamine an hour before putting her in the car. I had Pippa, Adora and Kenya loaded up and ready to go at 5:05 and got to my friend Deb’s house in St. Louis by 6:30 AM (and I arrived exactly on time, which was satisfying). After a flurried fifteen minutes or so, we had three people and six dogs loaded in Deb’s SUV and were on the road again, heading for the Indianapolis Cavalier specialty. It was a pretty small specialty this year, about a hundred twenty Cavaliers total.

We got to Indy just in time to get to Pat Lander’s handling seminar, except I was late because somebody told me the seminar was starting an hour later than it had been listed (they were wrong! Oops!) But that did mean my girls got a good walk before I had to leave them in the room again.

So I was showing Kenya and Adora in conformation — that’s the beauty contest part of a show — and both of them plus Pippa in Rally Obedience and Pippa in formal obedience.

Everybody qualified in every obedience event — Pippa did GREAT, especially since it’s been two years since I showed her in formal obedience. Oh, she was FANTASTIC. She did swing just a bit wide on the off-lead about turn, and the first sit? She walked around me and looked at me like I had two heads. Sit? What?

But everything else was great, including all the other sits. She had a rock-solid stand for exam and she did the group sits and downs like she never even dreamed of the possibility of breaking a stay (which is not true!)

And the Rally was fun. Kenya was dreadfully distracted the first day, but she did okay. The other two are more experienced and take whispered commands and hand signals and they were wonderful. Deb got High in Trial l with her girl, though, and the highest any of mine got was second place! Oh, well.

The Conformation show was Friday, Saturday and Sunday, but I showed my girls only Saturday and Sunday because that way I got to watch all the classes on Friday, whereas if you’re too busy yourself, you miss seeing the other dogs, you know? I was especially interested in the ruby boys because I need to think about who to breed Adora to next year. There were some wonderful dogs there.

The quality at this show was quite high, much higher than the average quality at an AKC show. There were any number of classes where you’d sit there and think: Well, this will be tough for the judge, every dog in there is nice. Usually at an AKC show, there are some decent Cavaliers and one or two that are rather nice and maybe one very good dog, plus unfortunately a couple that are just dreadful. (When my young Dara won her first points a few weeks ago, I told people there were ten girls entered but three didn’t count. Sorry, but it was true!)

It’s such a shame to see a dog with terrible structure because you know the poor dog won’t be able to enjoy hiking or jogging or even chasing squirrels, not for very long anyway. Most likely it’ll injure its legs or back, most likely sooner than later, and then the poor dog may be in pain for the rest of its life. Weak pasterns or slipping hocks are bad, straight shoulders are bad, a roached back is very bad (especially if the dog is roaching because it’s already in pain), straight stifles are terrible — all of those things are common and they all mean trouble for the dog as it ages. That’s why structural soundness is so important.

So the judge on Saturday was the UK Cocker breeder Frank Kane. Now, Frank Kane is a pretty famous name in some circles. He’s a very well known, highly respected “all rounder”, which means he judges all breeds. He’s set to judge Best in Show at Crufts next year, which is a huge big deal, and he’s an internationally renowned expert on structure and movement. He lectures on the topic — he gave a lecture at our show on Saturday, which was great — and he wrote Judging The Gundog Breeds, which I may buy now because after Saturday I’m a big fan!

He gave my Kenya first in her class and he told me later how much he loved her topline and movement! And this was the day when she WOULD NOT cooperate with me and was flighty and refusing bait and generally HORRIBLE. But when she stands, she stacks herself — I can’t take credit for setting her up, not on Saturday, she was refusing even steak! — and she moved all right, I guess, at least at the important times when Kane was looking at her.

Go, Kenya!

She won a nice silver bowl. It’s the kind of trophy where you have her name engraved on it and pass it on to the winner of the Graduate Puppy class next year, and her name will go right on there with the names of some REALLY nice puppies. Yay for Kenya!

Unfortunately the obedience took place kind of consecutively with the end of the conformation show and I missed my chance to get a win photo with the judge. Oh, I could cry! But I will post a picture of Kenya and her trophy tomorrow.

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Yesterday it was eighty-six degrees —

Tonight the low is supposed to be thirty-six.  Welcome to April in Missouri!

Did I get any work done this weekend?  No, unless you count planting peas, radishes, daikon radishes, parsnips, spinach, swiss chard and beets.  Whew!  A few weeks “late” — you’re supposed to plant peas when the forsythia blooms —  but not given the weather we’ve been having, which has involved snow on the forsythia blossoms.

Plus I took three of the dogs hiking!  Including my fifteen-year-old Papillon, which turned out to be a misjudgment, because 86 degrees is too hot for him.  I wound up carrying him about half the time.  Even a nine-pound dog is pretty heavy after the first quarter-mile or so.  Oh, well, hopefully it won’t get hot and stay hot for a little while; maybe he’ll get another chance or two before summer really sets in.

Okay!  I have an idea for a short story tied into the werewolf (sort of!  Not exactly werewolves!) novel I just finished.  This is remarkable.  I never, ever get ideas for short stories.  This time I have the whole entire plot in my head.  Who knows,  maybe I’ll join Dan Wells in his NaShoStoMo pledge !

Don’t hold your breath, but actually I sort of think I might. A short story a day! For a month! Dan’s right, it would be an excellent way to stretch myself, because I’m lousy at short stories.

But that’s for this summer sometime, not right now. I want to revise the ms. I’m currently working on — I’ve figured out stuff about the main character that I need to integrate into the story so far — and after that I want to write the one (1) short story that’s sprung full-formed from the aether, and then I want to FINISH the manuscript I’m working on — before June, I expect — and THEN I want to take a month off. But after THAT, I think maybe I will try out Dan’s idea and see if I can do it.

And after that, I’m pretty sure I will try to write another fairy-tale-esque story with a tone sort of like The City in the Lake, because The Book Smugglers gave CITY such a fantastic review that it instantly put me in the fairy-tale mood.

So that’s my plan for my summer! Not saying it couldn’t get revised, depending on events . . .

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When you’re obsessed —

If you like cooking and love good food, but are consumed by the need to write a lot of pages without stopping, what do you do?

Sometimes I have a very tight deadline (Books II and III of the Griffin Mage trilogy, I’m looking at you) or sometimes  I’m just working hard to put lots of words in a row.  But I don’t want to eat nothing but ramen noodles and apples for weeks or months, either.

Last week, when I was writing at pretty close to my top speed, I was also on a Thai kick.

I tried four different recipes for pad thai.  As long as you have shrimp and cubed pork already thawed, you can cook the shrimp and pork while the rice noodles soak.  You’ll also have time to make and slice the omelet, slice the scallions, get the bean sprouts out of the fridge, mince the ginger and garlic, and find the fish sauce, chili paste, and tamarind (third shelf of the pantry, NOT the second where you thought it was).  By the time the noodles are ready to toss in the skillet, everything else will be ready to go, too.  Time to make dinner:  25 minutes.  You can read over the five pages you just wrote while you eat (because that’s what you do when you’re obsessed).

I also made a sort of Thai-Chinese fusion fried rice, with jasmine rice, Chinese sausage, shrimp, pineapple, bean sprouts, and fish sauce and soy sauce.  Very tasty.  Wish I had more Chinese sausages in the freezer.  Time to cook the rice — doesn’t count because I cooked the rice in the morning and stuck it in the fridge to chill until time for dinner.  Time to make dinner:  10 minutes.

Fastest of all:  cellophane noodles with Thai peanut sauce.  I made the sauce from scratch, thank you.  It’s not like it’s hard.  And I simmered the cellophane noodles in chicken broth because I think that makes a big difference in flavor.  Canned, because that’s fine for this use.  Time to make dinner:  5 minutes.

No fussing over desserts because (sigh) it’ll still be nice to ONE DAY lose those extra five pounds.  Fruit, therefore.  At least I really like frozen grapes.

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There goes spring break . . .

And did I get all the seeds planted?  All the dead stalks of last year’s perennials trimmed back?  All the dogs bathed?

Did I take Pippa to town every day and remind her, around real distractions, of the obedience work we haven’t practiced for two years?  No, I did not, even though she will be in the ring again at last in just two weeks.  (I did take her out once, and she did great but does need to practice the stand for exam.)

Did I read the rest of the books by Nina Kiriki Hoffman that I just bought and have been dying to get to?  Watch the three seasons of Battlestar Galactica which I have owned for years?  No, not that either.

What I did instead was write 114 pp of my newest work-in-progress.  In eight days.  Bringing the total number of pages to 202.  For me, 14 pages a day is very good indeed and reason to be smug, even though I now have to catch up on all the other things I let slide.  Plus, I think I have a vague inkling of how the book will end!  Maybe.

Here’s the way it starts:

*   *   *
Chapter One

The day Erest’s brother Kevi was stolen, that was the same day Erest climbed over the wall for the second time.

The first time he had not known what he was doing.  That had been ten years ago, almost.  He’d only been five, an independent, unpredictable toddler with more curiosity than any ten cats – his mother, Elise, put it like that when she was telling one of her embarrassingly cute baby stories about him.  She laughed when she said it, but she meant it, too.  She seemed to have twice as many stories about Erest as about any of his brothers or his sister.  Although that story was not cute, and anyway it wasn’t really about Erest.  It was about his father.

Erest had got of the house and all the way through the back pasture, where luckily the red bull, lying in the shade of the cottonwoods by the river, had not noticed him.  He had clambered over the wall at a low place where one of the big stones that braced the wall had cracked straight through and where some of the flat red rocks laid across the top had fallen.  The miniature rockslide had left an irresistible gap for any five year old, and never mind all that about the cats.

“How any five-year-old baby could get all that way and then keep right on going up the mountain, one little foot after another!  But that’s Erest,” his mother always said when she reached this part of the story.  “Once he gets started, he won’t turn back halfway.”

He had been wearing a blue shirt that day.  The dye had streaked, that was why his mother had got it cheap from the peddler, but it was a good bright blue, like a flake off the sky.  That was why his father had spotted him, already high up on the mountain’s shoulder.

It was the only mountain in all of Whetsee.  It was not really a proper mountain, Erest’s brother Davud said.  Davud worked for Master Paulin, who was a dyer and traveled all over the world arranging for the production and trade of the rarest and most expensive dyes and fixatives, and the best cloth, too.  Davud had been not only to Carst and Illium but even to Markand, all the way south and east to where real mountains, he said, stabbed upward like knives aimed at the heart of heaven.

Davud did not come home very often, but the last time, having been pestered almost to death by his younger brothers on his previous visits, he’d brought a series of sketches to show everyone.  He’d been proud of his sketches of busy Illian markets and girls drawing water from fountains, of Markand palaces and temples with pointed upswept roofs and smiling girls with flowers in their hands and in their hair.

Little Tom, who was sixteen then, and Kert, who was fourteen, liked the sketches of the girls best.  They spread those sketches out on the scarred work table in the kitchen because it was the largest table in the house, and then they argued about which girl was prettiest and teased Davud and said that he should bring a girl home instead of just a drawing.  Alise – she was eighteen then, and being seriously courted by two different town boys – had just rolled her eyes, but Davud blushed and glanced sidelong at their mother, and said maybe someday he would.  Elise had just smiled, so it was hard to decide what she thought about Davud maybe bringing a foreign girl home.

Erest had been twelve.  He had privately thought Davud had spent more than enough of his time drawing girls, but he loved the other drawings.  The last one, the one he liked best, showed the mountains of eastern Markand.  “A drawing like this doesn’t do the job,” Davud had said apologetically.  “No ink could do it right – there’s not that much paper in the world.  It’s like the whole horizon rears up to touch the sky.  It’s like the world ends right there.  You feel if you climbed up to the top and looked over, there wouldn’t be anything on the other side but sky, going on forever.”

Erest had tried to imagine this.  He had decided right then  that his brothers could have the farm – that someday he, too, would be a travel like Davud.  His trade didn’t matter, so long as he got to travel.  He didn’t care much about dyes, but he wondered if his brother’s master might want another apprentice.  But when he asked Davud later, his brother said Master Paulin was getting ready to settle down and devote himself to building up a decent clientele someplace civilized, maybe in Illium somewhere, and if he took another apprentice it would probably be an Illian boy.  But he gave Erest the sketch of the mountains for his own.

The Kieba’s mountain wasn’t like the ones from Davud’s drawing.  It wasn’t so huge or so grand.  It was rounded at the top, and lumpy where it trailed off into a series of square-ish bumps on the western side.  Like the desert below, it was all red sandstone and dry sun-bleached grasses, with here and there stunted scrub oaks and pines clinging to the stone.  But it was mountain enough to stand out starkly enough from the flat surrounding grasslands and desert.  And, of course, it had the wall all the way around it, miles and miles of wall, which no other mountain in the world had.  The wall was because the Kieba lived at the top and she liked her privacy.  The wall was only elbow high on a grown man.  It wasn’t meant to enforce the Kieba’s preferences.  She did that herself.  It was only to mark the boundary of the mountain she claimed as her own.

Erest had no memory of what his five-year-old self had been thinking when he found the gap in the wall and climbed over the tumbled stones and started up the mountain.  Maybe he had just made his way through the pasture and across the wall because such a venture was forbidden.  Maybe somebody had been telling stories about the Kieba and he had actually and deliberately decided to go up the mountain to look for her.   Either way, he had found her.  That was his father’s part of the story.

Erest’s father was a big, broad man with shoulders like one of the plow horses and immensely strong calloused hands and a deep, deep voice that had slammed down like a sledgehammer against his wife’s attempt to run after her son, whose blue shirt had been just visible against the red stone of the mountain.  Tomren had gone himself, across the pasture and over the wall and up the mountain.  He had found his son a bowshot on the other side of the wall, eagerly showing the Kieba a large pebble he had found on her mountain, round and hollow and filled with glittering purple crystals.

It was obviously much too late to snatch up his little son, rush back down the mountain, and pretend as hard and thoroughly as possible that no one had ever trespassed past the Kieba’s boundaries.  So Tomren had walked forward instead, set one big hand on Erest’s shoulder, dropped heavily to his knees, and begged the Kieba’s pardon for his son’s trespass and for his own.  Erest remembered that part.  He remembered how shocked he had been when he understood his big, unshakable father was afraid.

“I don’t hold babies to account when they flout my law,” the Kieba had answered.  Erest remembered her saying that, or thought he did:  maybe he only remembered his father’s story about it.  He thought he remembered that the Kieba had looked to him like any normal woman.  Old, maybe his mother’s age.  Not really special, except there was something strange about the way she moved, though he couldn’t have explained what exactly was strange about it.  But she looked like she was used to having men kneel to her.  Erest was almost sure he remembered that.

Her tone had been sardonic when she spoke to Tomren:  not exactly angry, but severe, like Erest’s mother when she was pointing out a badly done chore that she was going to make you do over.  Erest had been shocked again to hear the Kieba speak to his father in that tone.  She had added, “I hold their parents to account for that.”

“That’s right.  That’s just,” Tomren had agreed immediately.  His deep voice was not suited to any swift tumble of words, but this time he spoke quickly, as though he wanted to get the words out before the Kieba changed her mind.  He said, “I know there’s a price to pay.  I’ll pay it.  But let me take him down, give him to his mother.  Then I’ll come back.  I swear I will come back.  But let me take the boy to his mother first.”

The Kieba had just looked at him for a long moment.  Tomren had stared back at her, waiting.  Erest had not understood, then, what his father meant.  But he must have understood something because he hadn’t tried to shake off his father’s grip, even though it was hard enough to bruise his arm.

At last the Kieba had said, “You’re a good neighbor, Tomren.  You and all your family.  I don’t mind your farm here.  You’ve wondered about that, haven’t you?  But I don’t mind it.  I like to look down at its neat order.  I like to see your family prosper.  I like to see your happiness.  Take your son back across the wall.  Teach him to respect my boundaries.  That will satisfy me.”

Then she had looked at Erest.  “That’s called a geode, that hollow rock,” she had told him.  “The crystals are amethysts.  Keep it, if you like.  Some people think geodes are lucky.  Perhaps that one will bring you luck.  You’ll need luck, if you go on as you’ve started.”  Then she’d just turned and walked away, up the mountain and around a curve of stone, and was gone.

*  *   *

I like it so far!  But I have to add, it’s the girl character who appeared in Chapter Three who stole my heart!  I didn’t see her coming at all until suddenly there she was, hiding under a chair to listen in on a discussion she was NOT supposed to overhear . . .

Now a break to catch up on house-garden-dog-related chores!  I will probably figure out the ending to this book over the next month and finish the first draft in May, after the semester ends and Bree’s puppies arrive.

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The Book Smugglers are in my corner

And this is a very good thing.

The Book Smugglers, Ana and Thea, run a beautifully organized book review site with frequent, thoughtful posts and lots of giveaways — the kind of site that can garner a hundred or more comments on a single post.

So I’m delighted at their joint review of The City in the Lake, which they timed to post just as the book came out in paperback.

I thought they’d like CITY.  And I was right.

Drop by thebooksmugglers.com and read the whole thing, but here are some of the bits I most appreciated:

Thea:  “Jaw-droppingly awesome.”

Ana:  “I was so not prepared for how awesome this book is.”

And then at the end —

Thea’s concluding comments:  I cannot believe I had not heard of this book earlier, and it’s a damn shame how unacknowledged it is. From opening sentence to bittersweet farewell, I loved The City in the Lake and recommend it to readers young and old alike. For fans of Juliet Marillier, Patricia McKillip, Robin McKinley, and Sharon Shinn, looking for that next fix of luscious, romantic, flawless fantasy? Look no further – Rachel Neumeier’s The City in the Lake is for you. Easily, one of the best books I have read in 2011 and in the running for my year end top 10.

Ana’s concluding comments:   I can’t believe I never heard about this book before and I wish more people would read it. I don’t think I have read a YA Fantasy as good as this in ages and wouldn’t be surprised if it made my top 10 as well.

So, yes, that was very satisfying.  Didn’t even take a bribe.  Honest.

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And another one hits the shelves!

The new paperback edition of THE CITY IN THE LAKE —

Available any minute now.  Well, technically, on March 8th, but I just got my first copy in the mail, so it feels real to me right now.

Pretty cover, isn’t it?  I think Timou looks perfect.

Keep an eye out at The Book Smugglers — they’ll be reviewing CITY on March 11th.  CITY is more of a fairy tale, whereas my other books are more adventure stories, so I’m really interested to see what The Book Smugglers think of it.

Now, on a different subject — I wish I could remember who recommended Nina Kiriki Hoffman to me.  Somebody at the World Fantasy Convention last year?  Whoever it was, thanks!  She’s my new favorite author!

So far I’ve read The Silent Strength of Stones, A Fistful of Sky, and The Thread That Binds the Bones.  Loved all three.  I’ve ordered Hoffman’s entire backlist and they’ve started arriving, so lots of great books ahead of me in the near future.  Can’t wait to break up a block of Callebaut 70% dark chocolate and settle down with the next one.

I’ve also just read Structure in Action:  The Making of a Durable Dog (by Pat Hastings).  Lots and lots of photos of dogs with correct and incorrect structure.  The publisher sent it to me so I could write a book review for the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club bulletin — it’s a good addition to your library if you’re serious about breeding beautiful, sound dogs, but I don’t imagine it’ll be of interest to most fans of fantasy and other genre fiction.

But look!  While we’re on the subject of breeding, take a look at this boy here!

This is CKCSC and AKC Ch. Truluv Kiss N Tell of Jayba, winning one of his Specialty Best in Shows.  He is also going to be the father of my Bree’s next litter of puppies.  If all goes well, they’ll be born in May.  Can’t wait!

And, yes, I am working on a new project of my own.  I’ll post an excerpt one of these days . . . but soon . . .

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Hitting the Shelves Today!

Complete with a starred review from Kirkus!

Kirkus says:

“Intelligent, richly detailed fantasy featuring two young cousins battered by losses, personal passions, and larger events.

“Shy, inarticulate, recently orphaned and newly arrived in the aptly named Floating Islands, Trei is transformed by the rare chance to strap on a pair of feathered wings and join the legendary corps of soaring kajaraihi.  For his fiercely intense cousin Areane, constraints on women are but annoying obstacles to be overcome in pursuing first the forbidden (to women) culinary arts and then the magical abilities that well up in her, all unbidden, in the wake of a family tragedy of her own.

“The arrival of an expanding empire’s invasion fleet, augmented by a new, mechanically powered magic, propels Trei and Araene into actions that test their courage, loyalties and cleverness to the utmost.

“The author delineates complex characters, geographies and societies alike with a dab hand, deftly weaves them all — along with dragons of several sorts, mouthwatering kitchen talk, flashes of humor, and a late-blooming romance — into a suspenseful plot and delivers an outstanding tale that is self-contained but full of promise for sequels.”

There!  Doesn’t get much better than that!

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Four snow days . . .

. . . means a six-day weekend!  Whew!  That was really long enough.  About a half-inch of ice, then a little snow on the top, then another five inches of snow on top of that.

Weather like this is a great excuse to take dogs for walks in the snow (once there was all the snow to improve the footing) and then cook a lot of chili to warm up.  I made two kinds:  one with tiny bits of minced pork shoulder and pork sausage, one with black beans and the last of the butternut squashes I picked last fall.  Tons of chipotle in both, though otherwise they were very different.  Both very good.

I also made bagels for the first time ever, using the recipe in Reinhart’s The Bread-Baker’s Apprentice.  Worked beautifully.  I sprinkled my bagels with za’atar.  Yum.  Snow days are very helpful for Reinhart’s recipes, as many of them take hours and hours while you wait for dough to proof.  I want to try the Portuguese sweet bread next, but I need a weekend or another snow day before I can make that because it takes about seven hours.  Most of it unattended, but you have to do things to the dough now and then, so not a workday project.

I also polished up the first 50 pp or so of three different potential mss. and sent them off to Caitlin.  I hope she will like them all, but what I really want is for her to say enthusiastic, flattering things about one or another.  That’s a splendid impetus to get me in writer-mode.

One of them is set in a kind of alternate Ottoman Empire.  I’ve done tons of reading for that, starting with scholarly works I borrowed from my brother and ending with the fabulous Everyday Life in Ottoman Turkey, by Lewis.  That book worked perfectly for me, especially since this is an ALTERNATE empire, not really the Ottoman Empire, so I can invent whatever details I like that have the right kind of feel.  A lot of different cool ideas came together for this story — the Ottoman-ish Empire and underground cities and tiny dragons and a woman who was a spy when she was a little girl . . . I’ve got some great scenes in mind and maybe 1/3 of the plot in my head.

Then the second is totally different.  It’s a YA, set in a world where there were massive disasters involving plagues in the distant past and, well, it’s a little hard to describe.  There’s a powerful sorceress who used to be a good guy and now might be something of a bad guy (not sure about that), and a threatened war, and well, we’ll see.  I actually have about 2/3 of the plot in my head, which is quite a lot more than usual.

The third is also a YA, probably, meant to be more fairy-tale-ish and less of a straight adventure story.  I think I know a fair bit of the plot, but the characters have sort of multiplied out of control and either they’ll have to sort themselves out and become useful or some of them will have to vanish from the script.  Won’t know which until I start really working on it.

I kind of like all of ’em, so any one Caitlin picks is fine with me.

Recent reading:  After getting that done, I had time to read books!  So I got out the really good chocolate and settled down with the crowd of critters and read Joe Abercrombie’s series, The Blade Itself and Before They Are Hanged and Last Argument of Kings.  At first I hated two of the main characters and thought, Well, not likely I’ll finish these.  But then the torturer (Glotka) started to grow on me (somehow), and I saw that that idiot Jezal was probably going to improve, and I already liked Logen.

So even though Abercrombie insists on spelling “All right” as one word, which I DETEST WITH A FIERY WHITE HOT FURY, I finished the series.  And I liked it quite a bit, although I was pretty shocked and a bit dismayed by some aspects of the ending.  I think I’ll read his fourth book, though, and hope that the part I disliked most about that ending resolves in a more satisfactory way.

I also read this interesting Literary novel:  The King’s Last Song, by Ryman.  Never read anything by him before, but it was one of the free books handed out at last year’s World Fantasy Convention.  It’s about Cambodia and it has a lovely cover.  Turned out to be beautifully written and haunting.  Loved how Ryman interwove modern Cambodia with history.

Also, for something completely different, I read the first three Kate Daniels books by Ilona Andrews.  The Book Smugglers reviews were responsible for this series winding up on my To Read Soon pile.  Urban paranormals are so dime-a-dozen right now I can’t imagine how to pick one out of the herd without a trustworthy review.  I thought the first book was only average, the second an improvement, and the third book really good — so I’m glad I kept going.  I ordered the fourth book this morning and I’m looking forward to getting it in the mail!

Now just waiting to hear back from Caitlin.  No rush (really!).  I have plenty of dark chocolate left, and I’m looking forward to a few more days off to whittle down my To Read Soon pile down a little more!

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