Books read, November 2022

In November 2020, I randomly decided that I would try to prioritize reading Native American authors that month. This year, seeing the number of books by such authors that had piled up on my shelf and on my wishlists, I decided to go ahead and fully devote the month to that focus.

Now, there are flaws in this approach, and I know it. Why, for example, should I cordon such authors off in a specific month? The answer to that is (of course) not to cordon; this year I did actively choose to hold off on a couple of the books because I knew I was going to approach November this way, but in the future I’m not likely to do that. There are also merits to the approach, though: by taking in such fiction and non-fiction in a concentrated dose, I see patterns and themes and gaps in ways that would elude me if the material were more spread out. Case in point, I noticed that I have quite a lot of Anishinaabe authors here, with smaller clusters elsewhere, but there are whole swaths (like the Plains) that are relatively untouched.

So my verdict on the experiment as a whole is that I think it was interesting to do, but I don’t think I’d try to repeat it on a yearly basis. Unless, maybe, I wind up with such a backlog again that another focused push makes sense. 🙂

On to the books themselves!

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More adventures in L5R!

And this time around I mean literal adventures!

Well, one adventure, anyway. A while back I was contacted by the Edge Studios, the company now handling the Legend of the Five Rings RPG, asking if I’d like to create a pre-written scenario for the game that would pick up and run with a strand of the plot that was planned for the official storyline, but which never happened due to that storyline getting wrapped up earlier than intended.

So of course I said yes. Then I had to figure out how to make an RPG adventure out of a premise that amounts to “a bunch of religious figures get together to Do Politics,” heh. Also, it was my first time attempting to do something like this: I’d written microsettings for Tiny d6 several times before this, but those pack fluff text, a proposed setting, and several adventure hooks into 1500 words. This time around they wanted more like 15,000 words, all developing a single plot in a well-established world.

But in all honesty, I’m super pleased with how it turned out. Because there are no pre-generated characters and no way for me to know what types of people the players would bring to the game, I couldn’t just make it all be about theology and such (which probably would have been of limited interest anyway); I had to figure out structures that would let players engage usefully with the plot via a wide variety of skills. There’s a section where PCs can influence the religious conclave via anything from meditation to calligraphy to a sparring match to their ability to hold their booze! The necessity of providing that flexibility was actually a good thing, because it meant figuring out multiple types of conflict, which gave the adventure as a whole a much wider dynamic range.

Imperfect Land is out now, if you happen to be interested in the L5R RPG. I’ve gotten some good early reactions already, but of course the real question will be what happens when the rubber of what I wrote meets the road of people actually playing it. I hope they have fun!

And as long as I’m here announcing L5R-related news, I should add that I’ve officially sold a third and final novel in my series to Aconyte Books: The Market of 100 Fortunes, which will be out some time in early 2024, about a year after The Game of 100 Candles. First, though, I gotta write it . . .

“Crafting Chimera”

I’m sneaking a couple more short fiction publications in before the end of the year, and the first of those is “Crafting Chimera”! It came out today in the online magazine ZNB Presents; as you’ll see if you follow that link, they’re running on Patreon, so the story is available only to ZNBP patrons. Joshua Palmatier and his company have a long track record of putting out great themed anthologies, though, so the magazine is definitely worth checking out!

As it happens, this story also comes with a funky bit of background. To learn how it made my protagonist immortal, head on over to my site . . .

Apparently they heard me

So my higher-tier New Worlds patrons have the chance to vote in polls on what the topic for a given month will be, right?

Well, right now I’m running the polls well in advance, because getting the yearly collection ready for publication not too long after the year ends (the Patreon year, that is; the project started at the beginning of March 2017, and the books usually come out in April) means I have to write the final few months of essays ahead of time. I’ve been in crunch mode on that for a while now, with only the February essays left to go, but I need to write all of those and then reorganize and revise the whole manuscript before sending it off to my BVC beta reader on December 9th. Not a lot of time, and it’s very common for the polls to be semi-tied among a few options, with a winner not emerging until I remind people to vote a few days later — if then. I woke up this morning with a plan for how to do as much work as I could sans the February essays if there was no clear leader yet in the poll that went up today.

Y’all, one of the topics has a massive lead over the entire rest of the field. Possibly the biggest margin of victory I’ve yet seen in several years of doing these polls.

So I guess my patrons heard my silent prayer for a decisive early vote! There’s zero chance that anything else is going to overtake the leader, which means I can get right to work on writing those essays and revising the manuscript, no delay required. If you’ll pardon me, I should get back to that . . .

Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address

[I encountered this text in Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer (Potawatomi) earlier this month. I quote her comment there:

Living as a neightbor to the Haudenosaunee, I have heard the Thanksgiving Address in many forms, spoken by many different voices, and I raise my heart to it like raising my face to the rain. But I am not a Haudenosaunee citizen or scholar — just a respectful neighbor and a listener. Because I feared overstepping my boundaries in sharing what I have been told, I asked permission to write about it and how it has influenced my own thinking. Over and over, I was told that these words are a gift of the Haudenosaunee to the world. When I asked Onondaga Faithkeeper Oren Lyons about it, he gave his signature slightly bemused smile and said, “Of course you should write about it. It’s supposed to be shared, otherwise how can it work? We’ve been waiting five hundred years for people to listen. If they’d understood the Thanksgiving then, we wouldn’t be in this mess.”

In that same spirit, I share here the most common version of the address, the same one Kimmerer uses in her book.]

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This Thanksgiving address has been used by the six nations of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) to open and close major gatherings or meetings. The prayer is also sometimes used individually at the beginning or end of the day.

The People

Today we have gathered and we see that the cycles of life continue. We have been given the duty to live in balance and harmony with each other and all living things. So now, we bring our minds together as one as we give greetings and thanks to each other as people.

Now our minds are one.

The Earth Mother

We are all thankful to our Mother, the Earth, for she gives us all that we need for life. She supports our feet as we walk about upon her. It gives us joy that she continues to care for us as she has from the beginning of time. To our mother, we send greetings and thanks.

Now our minds are one.

The Waters

We give thanks to all the waters of the world for quenching our thirst and providing us with strength. Water is life. We know its power in many forms — waterfalls and rain, mists and streams, rivers and oceans. With one mind, we send greetings and thanks to the spirit of Water.

Now our minds are one.

The Fish

We turn our minds to the all the Fish life in the water. They were instructed to cleanse and purify the water. They also give themselves to us as food. We are grateful that we can still find pure water. So, we turn now to the Fish and send our greetings and thanks.

Now our minds are one.

The Plants

Now we turn toward the vast fields of Plant life. As far as the eye can see, the Plants grow, working many wonders. They sustain many life forms. With our minds gathered together, we give thanks and look forward to seeing Plant life for many generations to come.

Now our minds are one.

The Food Plants

With one mind, we turn to honor and thank all the Food Plants we harvest from the garden. Since the beginning of time, the grains, vegetables, beans and berries have helped the people survive. Many other living things draw strength from them too. We gather all the Plant Foods together as one and send them a greeting of thanks.

Now our minds are one.

The Medicine Herbs

Now we turn to all the Medicine herbs of the world. From the beginning they were instructed to take away sickness. They are always waiting and ready to heal us. We are happy there are still among us those special few who remember how to use these plants for healing. With one mind, we send greetings and thanks to the Medicines and to the keepers of the Medicines.

Now our minds are one.

The Animals

We gather our minds together to send greetings and thanks to all the Animal life in the world. They have many things to teach us as people. We are honored by them when they give up their lives so we may use their bodies as food for our people. We see them near our homes and in the deep forests. We are glad they are still here and we hope that it will always be so.

Now our minds are one.

The Trees

We now turn our thoughts to the Trees. The Earth has many families of Trees who have their own instructions and uses. Some provide us with shelter and shade, others with fruit, beauty and other useful things. Many people of the world use a Tree as a symbol of peace and strength. With one mind, we greet and thank the Tree life.

Now our minds are one.

The Birds

We put our minds together as one and thank all the Birds who move and fly about over our heads. The Creator gave them beautiful songs. Each day they remind us to enjoy and appreciate life. The Eagle was chosen to be their leader. To all the Birds — from the smallest to the largest — we send our joyful greetings and thanks.

Now our minds are one.

The Four Winds

We are all thankful to the powers we know as the Four Winds. We hear their voices in the moving air as they refresh us and purify the air we breathe. They help us to bring the change of seasons. From the four directions they come, bringing us messages and giving us strength. With one mind, we send our greetings and thanks to the Four Winds.

Now our minds are one.

Closing Words

We have now arrived at the place where we end our words. Of all the things we have named, it was not our intention to leave anything out. If something was forgotten, we leave it to each individual to send such greetings and thanks in their own way.

Now our minds are one.

Thanksgiving Address: Greetings to the Natural World English version: John Stokes and Kanawahienton (David Benedict, Turtle Clan/Mohawk) Mohawk version: Rokwaho (Dan Thompson, Wolf Clan/Mohawk) Original inspiration: Tekaronianekon (Jake Swamp, Wolf Clan/Mohawk).

Another Uncanny sale!

Something I did not expect on a Sunday afternoon, but was delighted to receive: an email letting me know that Uncanny Magazine is buying another story from me! A piece called “Silver Necklace, Golden Ring,” which is a chilly fairytale-style piece resulting from about five different inspirations smashing into one another; you can read the full background on my site.

leverage the tricks you have

I’ve spent the past several days (and have several more to come) gear-shifting between three radically different writing projects. On the one hand, I’m taking this approach because I know my brain can’t just buckle down and slam all the way through one of them in a concentrated go; eventually it starts emitting steam and high-pitched whistles, and then I have to stop or switch to something else. On the other hand, that means I’m putting a different sort of strain on it, by asking it to get into a totally different mode on very short notice.

Thank god for the tactics I developed years ago.

It started out as a way to get myself into the headspace of a novel on days when I didn’t want to write. Well, no, that’s a lie; it started out as an accident: me being obsessed with a ten-minute trance remix of a particular song and listening to it on loop while I happened to be writing what eventually turned into Lies and Prophecy. But it became that thing I just said, and so I got in the habit of associating particular music with particular books. These days it’s more often whole playlists rather than single songs; the former is slightly less insanity-inducing than the latter, but also (if we’re being honest) a bit less effective.

This helps SO MUCH when I have to do this kind of gear-shifting. Even though two of the projects are new enough and small enough that they don’t actually have associated music, I picked out an album in one case, a genre playlist in the other, and when I’m done with A and it’s time for B, I change the music. And it helps. My brain goes, “Oh, techno? I absolutely cannot think about Previous Project with that going on. What else is on offer?” And then I open up the file for Next Project and we’re off.

I’m not claiming it’s foolproof. Also, not everyone can write to music (it’s worth noting that the vast majority of what I listen to is either instrumental or in languages I don’t speak well enough to be distracted by), so it’s not a tactic that can work for everybody. Possibly you could sub in things other than music, like beverages or sitting in different parts of the house, though I think those would be weaker insofar as they’re less likely to evoke particular genres, settings, and moods. But if you can do this: hoo boy does it help.