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.

the reviews begin

With Doppelganger starting to make its way out into the world, I took some time today to do what any sane first-time novelist does: I googled myself again. Which let me cross paths with this delightful review by Sue Burke on the website Fresh Fiction (review header — “Brilliant debut fantasy novel with a shocking ending”):

A fully realized new world, Ms. Brennan’s first novel is a brilliant read. The conclusion is a humdinger I never saw coming and literally stopped reading and said “Wow!” when it hit me. With likable characters, good world building and a story arc that keeps you wanting more, everything fits together nicely and comes to a satisfying conclusion for characters and readers alike.

That’s the tail end of the review, following a few paragraphs about the early plot of the novel. In a similar vein, I don’t think I ever actually linked to this other, equally delightful review I found a while back, from a woman named Jenica who read an ARC of the book. Relevant pull-quote:

In sum, the characters are engaging, the concepts of magic, goddesses, souls, and religious history are familiar but never derivative, and the society they live in is an interesting take on high fantasy. A wonderful read with a really satisfying resolution. And, just maybe, there’s more?

So far, so good. Haven’t gotten any trade-publication reviews yet; if those turn out half so well, I’ll be pleased.

return from ICFA; contest results

The only bad part about going to Florida for a weekend in March is coming back to Indiana’s winter weather advisories.

My fourth ICFA was delightful. My paper (on Meredith Ann Pierce’s The Darkangel) went well; Pythia’s paper went better, winning the grad student paper award. Go her! The Bloomington posse is beginning its domination. I also got very publicly promoted by Rick Wilbur of the fomerly-Asimov-now-Dell Award, who, in accepting a different award for his service, talked about the successes of the finalists, and made me stand up and display a copy of Doppelganger to the entire banquet room. I am so very very glad that my author’s copies arrived in time for me to take some south.

And speaking of the novel . . . .

Adam Zolkover wins the contest for spotting Doppelganger in the wild. There will be a character named after him in the urban fantasy sequel I’m working on. Even though the contest is done, though, go ahead and send pictures! Or, if you don’t have easy access to a digital camera, just tell me when and where you see the book appearing. I’d like to track its progress. The local Barnes & Noble has called the people who special-ordered it, so the process has begun.

Time to hide under the bed, I guess.

Unfortunately, I do have an excuse for being hermit-like. Two papers and a grant proposal to write in the next week and a half. Urk. Guess I’d better get to work.