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Posts Tagged ‘ask me a question’

Answers, Round Final

The last set from the question post. Thanks to everybody who participated!

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stevie_carroll asked, Do you have an unlikely favourite place in London (out of your top whatever places in London as opposed to your very favourite place)?

I guess the question is, what makes a place unlikely? I love the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral — not for any reason having to do with it being a big famous landmark, but because of the way the cathedral’s position fits into the City in my head, and the way you can sit on its steps and watch the sun set over the West End and eat your yakisoba from Wasabi or pasta salad from Tesco’s for dinner. It’s my mental “home” in London. But that might class it as “very favorite,” I guess.

I also love the fragment of the old London Wall I found on my first trip and revisited every subsequent time. It’s tucked away from the busy roads, and has a lovely bit of garden around it.

I don’t know if any of those count as “unlikely,” though.

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dmstraylight asked, If a PnP RPG based on the Onyx Court series was produced, what system would you want it to use and why? How about for Doppelganger? Driftwood?

The obvious answer for the Onyx Court is Changeling: The Dreaming, since that’s where it came from. But you’d have to do a lot of system hacking at this point to make it work, since Banality doesn’t figure into the Onyx Court, and it’s kind of a central idea for Changeling; rip that out and the whole thing falls apart.

If not Changeling, then maybe Deliria, which I haven’t actually played, but is in my head as a reasonably flexible system for doing faerie-related stuff.

The doppelganger books, I don’t have a ready answer for. I have L5R on the brain at the moment, so that’s the first thing that leaps to mind (especially with the Void and all), but from what I’ve seen of shugenja spells, they don’t lend themselves to the mixed-Element approach of the witches in my novels. Come to think of it, I have a hard time thinking of any magic system that treats conjunctional effects of that sort as a common thing, rather than an occasional exception, though I’m sure such things exist. Any suggestions from the peanut gallery?

Driftwood, of course, is easy. 1) Grab every gaming core book off your shelf. 2) Drop them on the floor to make a map of Driftwood. 3) Have fun. ^_^

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Aaaaaand that’s it for this round of “ask me anything.” Tune in at some indeterminate future point for more!

Answers, Round Four

I figure I’ll leave the question post open until I answer the last one. (At present, I probably have this post and one more to make.)

Also, you don’t need an LJ account to post a comment — I’ve resisted locking that down, despite the spam.

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bookblather asked, How do you feel about Mary Queen of Scots?

My feelings there are . . . complicated.

I basically have two perspectives on her: the one acquired through reading Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles, and the one acquired through writing Midnight Never Come. The latter is decidedly skewed toward Elizabeth’s side of the tale, while the former is more partisan to the Scottish side (though I wouldn’t say it’s strongly so). Sometimes these two conflict, and which one wins out depends on my mood and what I had for breakfast.

In general, I think her life was a deranged soap opera. All the parental drama and marriages and murders and imprisonment — it’s just crazy. I can’t really imagine what it was like to live through that. One of these days I should really read a good biography of her life.

(Also, even when I’m feeling less than entirely sympathetic to her, I still think her execution was awful. Nobody should have to go through that.)

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logovore asked, What fictional settings would you most like to (temporarily and safely) visit?

I appreciate the qualifiers, which change my answer rather substantially. 🙂

The Chrestomanci ‘verse from Diana Wynne Jones’ books would be a great one; I’d love spirit-traveling around to the different worlds. Pern, because flying and going between sounds awesome. Pamela Dean’s Secret Country, even though I don’t know enough literary references to truly enjoy myself there. The Commonwealth of Letters from Silverlock, even though ditto. 🙂 Florin, from The Princess Bride, just to say I’d been there. The World of Two Moons, from Elfquest.

The funny thing about trying to answer this question is, I have a hard time separating the setting from the roles within it. I can’t think of Pern without also thinking of having my own telepathically bonded dragon. I can’t think of Chrestomanci without imagining myself as an enchantress within it. Do I get to be special in these worlds? Or am I just me, with no skills or benefits I don’t already have? That affects my opinion quite a lot.

Any way you slice it, though, almost all of my answers are places I’ve had in my head since childhood. It seems the settings I’ve read about more recently don’t flip that “I wish I could go there” switch in my brain.

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wshaffer asked, If you were a rock star*, what instrument would you play, and what would your band be called?

I’d be the keyboardist, probably. (My two instruments are piano and French horn, and while I could name some random instrument I don’t actually play, the truth is there’s no instrument I love enough on concept alone to overcome my love for the ones I know in reality.)

As for a name, that’s harder. What kind of band is this? (I take “rock star” in a broad sense; it isn’t necessarily a rock band in genre terms.) Let’s say we do sort of world-folk fusion, with maybe some electronic and percussive elements on particular songs. I’m sort of tempted to call it “Cabinet of Curiosities” or “Kunstkammer” or something of that sort, but that makes us sound steampunky, which isn’t necessarily what I’m after. I dunno. It’s cheating on the principle of these posts, maybe, but I’ll hand this one back to the commentariat: what do you think such a band should be called?

Answers, Round Three

More answers from the ask me anything thread.

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starlady38 asked, If you were to write anything in the Onyx Court world post-series ending, what would it be about and when would it be about?

Chronologically post-ending, or just written post-ending?

Chronologically, as others have said, the most likely continuation of the series would be into the Blitz, and then to the modern day. (Whether or not that will happen depends on multiple factors, one of which is sales figures for the rest of the series, so if you want a Blitz book: go tell your friends to buy the rest of ’em!) I have to admit I sort of like the notion of a historical series that spans enough time to stop being historical, though there would be some interesting challenges associated with doing so.

At least, that’s the novel side of things. I’ve written a few Onyx Court short stories, and intend to write at least a few more; one of those would be a Jack the Ripper story, taking place not long after the end of With Fate Conspire. Aside from that, the top spot on the short fiction list is probably the “Ada Lovelace builds herself wings” story.

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yhlee asked, Favorite weapon?

Rapier.

What? I watched The Princess Bride at a very impressionable age. ^_^ And then took fencing classes at my local rec center, where our teacher couldn’t keep us linear and make us leave our off-hands out of it for love or money, until he said “screw it” and taught us rapier-and-dagger styles instead of foil or epee. The left-handed weapon of my matched pair of rapiers was a gift from him.

The style suits me, I think, and I want to get back to doing it. I am definitely built for speed and accuracy above strength, and it’s a great weapon for Renaissance-ish settings, which I do admit I have a soft spot for.

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alecaustin asked, Did you ever get a chance to do the research you wanted to do for the Mt. Hiei story?

I’m working on it, yeah. (Actually, I need to steal the car from my husband so I can make a trip down to the Stanford library, after which work will proceed at a much more useful pace.)

Also, under which edition of D&D (if any) are you level 31? (4e would break in half, but you’re okay under 3e’s Epic level rules, and still within parameters for Classic D&D…)

Who says it’s D&D? I’m tempted to claim I’m a Dragon Age DW rogue, and just picked up Unending Flurry. (Man, pair that with Twin Strikes and Low Blow, and your opponent bleeds out like you cut their femoral artery.) But even with the Awakening expansion, DA classes cap out at level 35, and I want to live long past that point. WoW would be a good choice, since they keep raising the level cap — but I don’t play that game and have no interest in doing so. In which case, okay, fine, I’m a D&D 3.5 character, playing for a GM who (hopefully) doesn’t mind coming up with the stupidly over-the-top plots that become necessary when playing epic-level PCs. ‘Cause I intend to become very epic.

Answers, Round Two

Continuing with the open question thread. Head over there if you want to add anything to the list.

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teleidoplex asked, If somebody were to ship your characters, what would be the _most wrong of all wronginess_ ship you could possibly imagine, and why?

A corollary to this: if someone were to write a crossover between the Onyx Court books and another series, what cross would you most want to see, and what cross would make your soul shrivel and die in your body?

Oh good lord.

Okay, crossover first. I actually discussed at one point with matociquala, but never followed through on, the two of us running a joint fanfic contest for her Blood and Iron/Ink and Steel and my Midnight Never Come. Because they are Elizabethan faerie fantasies that almost but not quite step on each other’s narrative toes, and it just sort of seems natural to see what might happen when you overlay one on the other.

What would make my soul shrivel and die? I dunno, really. Possibly my brain is protecting me against the answers, because I can’t think of anything that seems suitably awful. But then, I’m not very good at the crossover thing to begin with: either my brain mugs me with the perfect idea (e.g. Hogfather/Nightmare Before Christmas) or it turns up a total blank. I’d probably vote for some really bad Elizabethan faerie fantasy, but I try to avoid reading those, so I can’t name one suitably awful. Maybe a time-traveling crossover with, like, Mercedes Lackey’s modern-day elf-punk urban fantasies, just for the tonal disconnect.

Most wrong of all wronginess ship . . . well, let’s avoid things that are wrong in the “that person is underage, yo” way (not that there are a lot of kids in my stories) and try for brain-melty wrongness instead. Leaving short stories out of it — because I’m too lazy to think through them all — let’s go with Nadrett (from With Fate Conspire) and the Goodemeades (from any point in the series timeline). Because, just, what? No. (I was going to pair them with Invidiana, but really, if you tilt your head at the right angle and squint, that one could maybe make sense. Nadrett, on the other hand — no. Just no.)

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tooth_and_claw asked, Are you coming to visit Bloomington anytime soon? 😉

Bloomington, probably not. GenCon, possibly, as it would be a much more effective bang for my plane-ticket buck. A lot will depend on how next summer shapes up.

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sandmantv asked, What is a villain?

I’ve talked about this issue before, but that was mostly from the angle of “why I prefer to write antagonists instead of villains.” For me, I think the break point has to do with whether the character in question believes they’re acting for the greater good, or knows they’re acting selfishly and doesn’t care. The nobleman who thinks sheep need a shepherd can be an antagonist, even if he’s horribly mistreating his peasants. The nobleman next door who truly only cares about his own pleasure can be a villain, even if his peasants are actually better-off than his neighbor’s.

I don’t know if that makes any sense or not outside of my own head, but in here, it works.

Answers, Round One

I forgot to mention, when I said you could ask me questions, that you can, if you wish, ask me more than one. So, y’know. If you blew yours on the Cathars or something, or even if you didn’t, you’re welcome to ask more.

(Yeah, I knew as soon as I put the Cathars into that list, that at least one person was going to jump on it.)

Having said that, I guess I might as well pick out the heresy-related questions and answer those first.

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arkessian asked, So, the Cathar heresy then…

Most of what I know about them, I got from Stephen O’Shea’s book The Perfect Heresy: The Life and Death of the Cathars. Which is eminently readable, in terms of its writing; it hooked me by describing the variation of accents within modern France thusly: “Whereas the hubbub of cafe debate in say, Normandy, sounds like a mellifluous exchange between articulate cows, the tenor of the same discussion in Languedoc is akin to a musician tuning a large, and very loud, guitar.”

I’m not a very good judge of whether it’s a good history of the Albigensian Crusade, for the aforementioned reason that this is basically the only thing I’ve ever read about it. I liked it, though, and felt it did a very good job of conveying why Catharism (which is, of course, not what its adherents called it; they just thought of themselves as “good Christians”) was a threat to the foundations of medieval monarchy, not to mention papal authority. And it horrified me with tales of just how that war was conducted, which I think is about the right result.

As for the Cathars themselves — well. I don’t agree with a lot of what they thought (I tend not to agree with any religion that views the world as inherently bad, and escaping it as the ideal goal), but I am pleased by some of the odd pragmatism that can crop up when you believe in the transmigration of the soul. Okay, you should be a hard-core ascetic trying to leave this fallen world behind . . . but if you’re not ready for that in this lifetime, maybe the next. Also, maybe you were a different sex last lifetime, so really, how much does it matter what sex you are now? Europe might be a fascinatingly different place if the Cathars had somehow managed to win out. But they didn’t — they got rather brutally obliterated instead — so that sort of makes me feel automatically sorry for them.

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mrissa asked, What I want to know about the Cathars is why they didn’t use their heresy as an excuse to get more names. They seem to have kept using the same three or four names for everybody. This is not an ideal system, I feel.

Well, it was the thirteenth century, which I believe was the height of the Great Nomenclatural Famine in Europe, so there weren’t enough names to go around to begin with, and of course Innocent III moved very quickly to cut off their baptismal supply lines. But that didn’t bother the Cathars nearly as much as he intended it to, because of that whole reincarnation thing; they preferred to limit themselves to a small pool of names, because it increased the odds that you would bear the same name from one lifetime to the next. And, with any luck, the sheer boredom and lack of variety would encourage people to let go of their attachment to this sinful world all the sooner. So it was kind of a win-win for them (unlike the bit with the swords).

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And with that, I sleep.

Birthday Egotism, Level 31 edition

Long-time readers of this journal know I have a tradition of “birthday egotism” posts, wherein I stave off any birthday-related depression by making myself post, without deprecation or qualification, about the awesome things I’ve done in the last year.

This year, I find myself less in the mood for that — though not for any depressive reason. (I am, for example, damn proud of the fact that one of this year’s achievements was the completion of the Onyx Court series, ridiculous levels of research and all.) Instead, I think I’ll indulge in a different kind of egotism, and make this an Ask Me a Question post.

You can ask about anything: writing, reading, gaming, sewing, movies, music, travel, favorite breakfast foods, my opinion of the Cathar heresy. I’ll put the answers in new posts.

And now, I’m off to enjoy my first day of being level 31. (With thanks to yuki_onna, from whom I believe I stole the phrase.)

Round two

Question the fourth: What’s your daily/weekly routine like now out in the Land of Sunshine and Magic?

Answer the fourth: I don’t really have one yet. I despise living among boxes, so the last four weeks have been spent alternating between a madness of unpacking and a madness of novel-finishing, with no particular structure. (Interspersed with the occasional bit of flopping on the couch to watch Supernatural with kurayami_hime and kniedzw.)

I do, however, intend to get into more of a regular routine, and in fact I have a series of posts planned on that exact topic. So stay tuned for adventures in the life of I’m A Full-Time Writer Now.

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Question the fifth: What are you doing to keep your idea inputs levels where you want them?

Answer the fifth: I assume this means, how do I keep feeding my mind so it will come up with ideas? At the moment, I lack sufficient brain to process much in the way of non-fiction, so I’ve just been catching up on a variety of novels and TV shows — feeding the mind with fiction. But that’s because I’ve been way overworked for a few months now; once I’ve regenerated a few grey cells, I’m planning on resuming a practice I had a few years ago, wherein I tried to read some of the nonfiction accumulated on my shelves. I may, for example, go on a kick of reading about ancient China, because there’s a series of short stories I’d like to write that requires research in that direction. Or, y’know, that book over there about the Mongols, just because I don’t know much about them. Or whatever.

But yes — if I want to get much out of my brain, I am going to have to be careful to keep feeding it. Grad school used to take care of that for me, but I haven’t been in classes for two years now; it’ll be up to me to keep the food supply going.

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Question the sixth: Will you be writing any more books in the world of Warrior and Witch?

Answer the sixth: You know, one of these days I’ll do the smart thing and post the answer to this question on my website. I’m kind of afraid to know how many times I’ve answered it in e-mail.

So here it is in a blog post: I’m not currently planning to, no. Yes, there’s the question of the younger generation, and the Cousins, and Mirei and Eclipse (though I rather feel like where that one’s going is obvious), but none of that is a conflict. It’s just consequences to the work the characters have already completed, and that does not an exciting book make. If I come up with a conflict that excites me? Sure. My publisher would have been happy for me to do a third book two years ago, and I don’t imagine it would be terribly difficult to convince them to take one later on — not so long as the first two keep selling. But I finished the story I was telling; I’d have to come up with a new one before I’d sign on for another installment.

The closest thing I have to an idea is much smaller and more personal, and it keeps stubbornly resisting my attempts to make it grow enough plot to be a worthwhile book. But if such a book ever happens, the likeliest scenario is that it will take place about ten years later, and it will be about Indera. I think she’s up in Kalistyi somewhere, under another name, doing something else entirely with her life — not sure what — and I know she would run into whatever Amas/Hoseki is calling herself by then. Because if there’s one question I want answered, as the author, it’s what would happen when Indera comes face-to-face with her. (And, I suppose, how Indera has come to terms with herself. Or failed to do so. Whichever.)

Or maybe I could make it be a short story, though it’s hard to imagine writing it in a fashion that doesn’t require the reader to be familiar with the novels. Anyway. The idea sits in the back of my head, and if one day it jumps up and starts waving its arms, it’ll get written. But poking it with a stick isn’t getting it anywhere, so I leave it alone.

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Go here to ask me more!

Round one

I figure I’ll answer questions in batches of three or so, to keep the posts from being stupidly long.

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Question the first: How easy/difficult was it to score arrange “special” tours when you were on your research trip in England? Did you have to get a letter from your publisher, or was, “I’m writing a novel!” sufficient?

Answer the first: Pretty easy. I think I got a slightly sniffy reaction from one woman I e-mailed — in the vein of “we’re really quite busy, you know” — but that was just the go-between; the woman who ended up giving me that tour was fantastic. Mostly people are very glad to help. After all, you’re expressing an interest in a topic they’ve decided to devote either their careers or their volunteer time to; they like geeking out about it with somebody.

I’ve only once been asked to bring proof of writerliness, and that was for the library and archives at the Globe Theatre. They set up the appointment no problem, but I had to bring a letter from my publisher to show at the security desk.

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Question the second: What is your absolute favorite thing about being a writer, and what is your absolute least favorite thing about it?

Answer the second: Favorite is probably how I’m always doing something new. I was talking with my brother about this last month; my whole life, I’ve never found myself doing the same thing for more than about three or four months at a stretch. I’ve been in school, with new classes every semester, or I’ve worked at summer jobs, which by their nature are limited, or I’ve been writing novels, which generally take me about the same length of time. (Sure, I’m still sitting at the computer typing words, but it’s different characters and settings and plots; there’s substantial variety.) I have to go back to high school to find the last time I did the same tasks on the same topics for even so long as nine months consecutively.

Least favorite is probably the solitude. This is fundamentally about me spending long hours with my keyboard and monitor, which sucks in certain ways. I think that’s why a part of me thinks it would be fun to work in TV or movies; I’d still write, but it would be social. Downside: I’d have to deal with other people. The truth is that I’m often a solitary person; it’s just that this job can feed that tendency too strongly, and I have to guard against that. (In fact, if I can kick this bug out of my system, the plan is to use this weekend to launch Project Get A Social Life.)

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Question the third: If you could redo one thing about your career, what would it be?

Answer the third: . . . nothing?

Seriously, the answers that leap to mind are not in my control. It would be cheating to say “be a NYT-bestselling debut novelist!” Because even if I had a redo, I couldn’t be assured of making that happen. In fact, my sales might well be worse; Doppelganger earned out its advance handily, and has done well enough that my publisher reissued it, which is not the general fate of first novels. I’ll keep that result, thanks.

So I have to look for mistakes I know hurt me, and there just aren’t any bad enough to merit erasure. I’m glad the first novel I submitted wasn’t the first one I sold, because it wasn’t nearly as strong as it could be, but the act of submitting it wasn’t a bad idea; it got my feet in the water and earned me some personalized rejections. Etc. There’s only one thing I’ve done so far that I seriously regretted, but it’s worked out okay in the end, so even that I wouldn’t change. (Sorry, not sharing what it was, for personal and professional reasons. I know, that’s kind of cheating on this whole “answer a question” thing.)

I don’t think I’ve had a perfect run so far, but it’s good enough that I don’t feel an overwhelming desire to redo any of it.

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If you’d like to ask a question, head on over here.