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He’s a pushy bastard, for a dead man . . . .

Half an hour ago, “Waiting for Beauty” was the short story I was planning to write next, and “The Deaths of Christopher Marlowe” was one of those ideas that sounded vaguely nifty, but had been sitting around for quite a while and was never actually going to get written.

Now, thanks to matociquala posting her new opening paragraphs for The Stratford Man, Kit’s woken up again in my subconscious. Woken up again, found an opening line, found some more lines, mugged “Waiting for Beauty” and dumped it in a dark alley, cracked his knuckles, picked up a sap, and begun casting a speculative eye at the novel revisions I promised to send my agent soon.

Uppity little bastard. The structure of the story did a brief do-si-do, and I still may not be entirely sure where it’s going, but I know what half or more of it will be, and that’s more than enough for me to get started writing. Just as soon as I, y’know, read every bit of information and crackpot speculation about May 30th, 1593 that I can get my hands on.

And do those revisions. They should get priority, and a novel’s big enough to take a short story in a fight. But Kit’s a sneaky bastard, in addition to being uppity, and I fear he may dodge through the novel’s defenses and emerge in the lead.

In which case, the only real solution will be to write his story as fast as possible, so I can get on with the things I ought to be doing.

“The Deaths of Christopher Marlowe”

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The Book, One Month Later

My friend Kleenestar observed recently that “once you get to a certain critical mass of not-posting, the return to semi-regular posting is shockingly hard.” This is very, very true. And it goes double at the end of a semester.

So, my apologies for the silence. I’ll return to the world of the e-living by giving an update on Doppelganger.

More reviews in various places, mostly on blogs, a few on Amazon. Another negative review, too. This one, I will link to; it’s on the Green Man Review. (For the record, I didn’t link to the last one because it was someone’s journal, and I didn’t want to give the impression that I was asking anybody to go defend me in the comments thread. This one, on the other hand, is in a publication that habitually publishes reviews.)

It’s very odd, seeing the utterly contradictory nature of the positive and negative responses I’ve gotten. The GMR review doesn’t like the world or the characters all that much. Other people have spoken glowingly of that selfsame world, those selfsame characters. At least one person has found my prose terrible; others have raved in favor of it (though in the vein of “it’s nice and tight” rather than “wow, it’s really artistic”). Some of that is personal taste. Some of it, I imagine, is a matter of focus; you might pay attention to the aspects of the world that are original, while someone else is more attentive to those that aren’t. Some of it is probably perspective, since originality is partly a matter of what you’re accustomed to. Hell, thanks to my late introduction to The Lord of the Rings, I cruised happily through fantasy for many years without spotting who was ripping off Tolkien.

I’ve been getting fan-mail. Is that weird or what? <g> Over two dozen complete strangers have written to me since the book came out, telling me how much they liked it. For those of them who might be reading this journal: I am grateful to each and every one of you. No, really. As much as it boggles me to be getting such messages, this is, in a sense, why I wanted to write: not to get letters from readers, per se (especially since I feel like an idiot, trying to figure out how to respond with anything better than “um, wow, thanks!”), but to tell stories that other people care about. The letters are simply a way for me to know I’ve succeeded at that.

Sales-wise, I have no numbers yet. I won’t get anything official until the first royalty statement, I imagine, which will happen some time after June; they come to me twice a year. (I do get royalty statements, even if I’m not getting royalties yet. They let me know how far away I am from getting royalties yet.) I may get some less official numbers in the nearer future; in fact, I hope so. At the moment, I’m basically going off anecdotal evidence and sporadic checking of my Amazon sales rank against a handy webpage that translates the otherwise meaningless numbers into something like a sales rate. But that doesn’t tell me much, since my rank’s been fluctuating by as much as twenty thousand places. (I kind of wish Amazon would just abolish the bloody thing; it’s little more than a way to feed the fluctuations of my self-confidence.)

Now that the semester’s winding down, I’ll have a little time to do promotion. No concrete plans for that as yet, but watch this space for announcements.

That’s it for the nonce, I believe. Posting should resume as normal, since I’m out of classes now, and virtually done with grading. Ah, summer. How I’ve been looking forward to thee.

win some, lose some

Found my first negative review of Doppelganger today. (I knew there would be some. No book ever pleases everybody.) As I’d hoped, though, I find that I can take negative commentary in stride if what the person objects to is something I chose to do deliberately.

In this case, the reader put the book down after about twenty pages because, although they liked the swift opening, they soon found themselves confused about who the people were, and felt I was doing a bad job of introducing my characters (and the world in general). It isn’t quite true to say that’s an approach I took on purpose, since when I first wrote those scenes I wasn’t yet experienced enough to make choices like that on purpose, but through the various passes of revision, I chose to refine it in that direction. Why? Because the characters in those first twenty pages all know each other very well. Ergo, I chose to show through their behavior that they are familiar and either friendly or hostile by long habit, and to convey why and how they know each other through an accretion of brief comments, rather than an outright explanation.

For a lot of you reading this, that probably evokes a “well, of course” reaction. Not for everybody, though, and maybe not even for everybody reading this journal. Some readers prefer clearer explanations. It was a point of negotiation with my editor when I was revising Doppelganger — not the character introductions, per se, but the introduction of other information; I don’t always explain things when they first appear. Sometimes I drop them in and hope you’ll stick with me until the explanation arrives (which it usually does not long after). This is a technique that doesn’t work with every reader, and I know it. It’s my personal preference, since I find it more graceful. But it also means some people may get confused, and of those who get confused, some (like the reviewer) will not choose to stick with me.

You win some, you lose some. One of the commentators on that post went on to write a very positive review of the novel on her own blog, so hey.

(The negative reviewer also didn’t like my writing style. That aspect of fiction, more than anything, makes me roll my eyes and chalk it up to taste; you can try to make arguments for objective standards of plot or character or whatever, perhaps, but not writing style. I’ve gotten people telling me they love my writing style and I should never change it. There is absolutely no style I can use that will make everybody happy. Which is probably good, since it means I can stop worrying about it and just write in the style that the story feels right in.)

So, first negative review successfully survived. The choices I made didn’t work for that reviewer, and I’m more or less fine with that (“more or less” because, let’s be honest, I want everybody to love my book — what author doesn’t?). We’ll see what future reviews bring.

This Writing Life

The updates keep piling up, and I keep being too busy to post any of them. There was supposed to be a brief window to relax in right about now, but just as I reached it, the copy-edited manuscript for Warrior and Witch arrived on my doorstep. <sigh>

Anyway. Further reports of Doppelganger, all over the place; unless you’re in Hawaii (where my parents are right now), it ought to be in stock.

Or unless they’ve sold out. Which has happened in a few places.


I’ve gotten some extremely nice e-mails from readers, one of which told me to take the Amazon reviews with a grain of salt, since I’d probably end up with people declaring me the coolest thing since sliced Tolkien and others howling that I can’t write worth a rat’s ass. This prodded me to go check Amazon again (which I hadn’t done in a couple of days), where I found four reviews had been posted: the Harriet Klausner one from a while ago, Mike’s very flattering words, and two others that were entirely new to me. No Tolkien comparisons yet, but I’m entirely fine without those, and more to the point, no rat’s ass comparisons yet, either.

Having nothing whatsoever to measure this experience against, I can’t really evaluate it based on anything more than gut feeling, but so far, my gut is quite happy. Doppelganger is on the “New in Paperback” stand-alone racks in a number of Barnes & Noble stores, and an endcap display in at least one Borders, which is always good to hear; visibility can help sales along. I don’t know when I’ll first see sales numbers — whether those are quarterly, yearly, or what. I also don’t know when I’m likely to start seeing trade-publication reviews; we’ll see how those go.

Now, in writing news that has nothing whatsoever to do with Doppelganger, I just got pointed at a review of Summoned to Destiny, the anthology my first story “White Shadow” appeared in. It very nearly had me fainting out of my chair. A sample:

Brennan’s story achieves the elegance of a Bruce Holland Rogers fable, and is told in a voice as assured as Le Guin in her early Earthsea writings. The same sparse directness of scene; the same simple sentence structure, yielding prose passages of surpassing clarity and power.

I think I’m going to go hug that review and giggle until it’s time to head to class.

Director’s Cut

Okay, so I’m still behind on recommendations (having not posted March’s yet), but whatever. I’m posting something else instead: the original first scene of Doppelganger, as I semi-promised when I hit the limit of how much text I can post as an excerpt. Go see the scene I wrote when I was seventeen, and then read the commentary at the end to find out why I eventually decided to remove it entirely.

book updates

My mother reported discovering (and purchasing) copies of Doppelganger in Dallas today, though in her tour of the local bookstores (yes, she visited more than one; she’s my mother; what did you expect?) not all of them had it shelved. There will be a picture to post soon, she promises me. Also, it’s in Elk Grove, California, according to a woman named Heather who found it there, read it, and liked it.

Two more reviews here and here. I debated whether or not to link to them, since both of the reviewers in question are personal friends, but on the other hand, both of them have solid things to say about the book — more than just “the writer is a friend of mine squeeeee.” So I don’t feel too weird about linking to them. (Go go nepotism machine! Or something.)

Remember, let me know when and where you find the novel on the shelves!

one more entry

Most Internet quizzes bore me these days, but this one handed me my linguistic ass on a platter. And it had good spelling. The Internet needs more quizzes like these.



I have not spoken with my own voice in nearly seven years.

Great, just what I need. “Kingspeaker” has acquired a first line. I’ve got the Driftwood story I started at ICFA; I don’t need this pestering me, too. Let’s hope the lack of plot idea keeps this one in check. (I’m deliberately not letting myself write the next line — something about how the priests ritually took her voice away when they gave her the king’s — because that way lies narration, description, things that might turn into plot.)

last scene

With this final installment of the excerpt, I’ve hit the limit of what I’m allowed to post online (which is approximately 10% of the book). You finally get to see Miryo — mostly I alternate evenly between her and Mirage, but the timing of certain plot elements means they each get one instance of two chapters in a row, and Mirage’s happens to be at the beginning of the novel.

So that’s it for the excerpt, but stay tuned; there will be other goodies. Including the Long-Lost Original First Scene, which was the first bit to get written, but which got cut some time ago, for reasons I’ll explain when I post it. And any other tidbits I can think of to put up. (Hmmm. Do I have the self-confidence necessary to post the truly atrocious map I originally drew? I might. We’ll see. I could post The Evolution Of The Map as a cartography essay, I suppose.)

Back to grant-proposal writing.

brief note

Nobody should have to do anything about this except note the change, but I just remedied a dumb error I made when switching journals; this journal’s username is now swan_tower (or swan-tower) instead of theswantower. It’s a little easier to parse. Everything should be changed automatically, so you don’t need to refriend me or anything.