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Posts Tagged ‘the tropic of serpents’

scattered thoughts on the next Memoir

I haven’t been posting much about my progress on the fourth Memoir. (Which does have a title now, but as with Voyage of the Basilisk, I’m going to hold off on announcing it until the preceding book is released. I want people’s attention on that one, not the one that won’t be out until 2016.)

It’s a bit hard to talk about this book, because of the weird way publishing timescales work. I read reviews of The Tropic of Serpents and marvel at people who say things like [spoiler] — and then I remember that those people haven’t even read Voyage yet, let alone the one I’m presently writing. Of course the relevance of [spoiler] is not yet clear. Of course [spoiler] hasn’t developed very much yet. I’m not actually pointing at any one thing with those brackets; I could list several to fill in the blanks. I’m almost four-fifths of the way through the series. Everybody else is barely two-fifths done. What the story looks like from my perspective is wildly different from what all the rest of you see.

I had a plot epiphany the other night that is so freaking perfect, I honestly can’t believe it took me this long to come up with it. Like, how was this not part of the pitch I sent to Tor back in 2011? How was I such an idiot that I did not see this needed to be part of the story until just now? I really have no idea. Seriously, you all are going to read this book and assume I’ve been planning [x] from the start. I will smile mysteriously and try to pretend that’s true, so you don’t all know how blind I really was.

On Twitter the other night I joked that sometimes when I’m writing these books, I think about what the sensible thing to do would be . . . and then I have Isabella do the opposite. It’s funny because it’s true, to an extent. The key is mood: back when I was drafting A Natural History of Dragons, I had to keep prodding myself not to fall into Onyx Court mode. Forget subtle political maneuvering; this series needs crazy shit, yo. So the bit of plot I’m presently wrapping up right now had a moment where Isabella could have gone the cautious and sensible route, informing somebody of a suspected problem and mobilizing various resources to deal with it. But that would have created a story where she sits on her hands and then gets a report from other people that the issue has been dealt with. That? is not pulp adventure. So instead I came up with a reason for her not to tell that person what was going on — a solid enough reason, I hope, to at least pass muster for the genre — and then there were hijinks involving her tailing Person A who is tailing Person B and at the end of it all there’s an abortive brawl. Much better.

I’m also going at this in weird order. I was floundering around in the middle of the book, with Isabella out in the field doing one stage of her research — but I didn’t really know how long I should spend on that bit, and I wasn’t sure where the whole thing was going anyway (this was pre-epiphany), until finally I decided I should skip ahead and write the bit referenced in the above paragraph, since at least I knew what I was doing with that. I think I’m going to keep on from there, writing some — who knows; maybe all — of the last third of the book; then, once I have a chunk of that in place, I’ll be able to back up and know what ought to go in the middle, to set up the end. This is weird for me, y’all. I don’t write this way, out of order. Except that maybe right now I do.

Hey: whatever gets the book done.

Speaking of which, I’m about at the . . . halfwayish point sorta but not really? I have about half of the word-count, but since a chunk of that is from way later in the book, I’m not mentally at the halfway point of the story. More like the two-thirds point, possibly a bit later. But it’s starting to look like a book rather than a short story that got way out of control. And in another few days I’ll get to write the emotional resolution to one of the conflicts, which will make it a lot easier to go back and figure out the rise and fall of the stuff leading up to that. (I hope. Remember, I’m new to this method.)

Darling du jour:

“There’s a bit of difference between swimming in shark-infested water because you’re trying to retrieve something from the bottom, and staying in just because you’re already there and haven’t been eaten yet.”

“We are still trying to retrieve something from the bottom. All that has changed is whether anybody on shore cares whether we — oh, hang the metaphor.”

What I Published in 2014

It’s that time of year, when authors round up what they did in the previous year for your consideration in awards.

Novel-wise, I had The Tropic of Serpents, the second of the Memoirs of Lady Trent. It made NPR’s “best of” list, in three different categories: Science Fiction Fantasy, Science and Society, and It’s All Geek to Me. The third book in the series is coming out in March — which is irrelevant to awards for 2014, but may be of interest to you all in other respects. πŸ™‚

Short fiction, I had four pieces:

“Mad Maudlin on Tor.com (read it online)

“Centuries of Kings” in Neverland’s Library, ed. Rebecca Lovatt and Roger Bellini

“Daughter of Necessity on Tor.com (read it online)

“The Damnation of St. Teresa of Avila” in Shared Nightmares, ed. Steve Diamond

The latter three are short stories, while the first one is a novelette, as such things get counted.

I also published Monstrous Beauty, but that’s a reprint collection of previously published work, so it isn’t eligible for anything that I’m aware of.

Assorted book-type-news-things

In the order that they occur to me:

1) Michael R. Underwood’s The Younger Gods is out! Main character is a runaway from a family of evil cultists, has to try to stop them from kicking off the apocalypse. Mike is a friend, of course, but this one would sound good to me even if I weren’t biased. πŸ™‚

2) I’m starting to rack up some foreign sales for the Memoirs. So far it looks like you’ll be getting at least the first book in Thai, French, and Polish. I’m on the verge of completely outgrowing my brag shelf, where I keep one copy of every edition of my books: there are worse problems to have.

3) Speaking of my brag shelf, the Mythic Delirium anthology is also out! This has “The Wives of Paris” in it, among other things. You may recall this anthology as the one that got the excellent starred review from Publishers Weekly; well, now you can own your very own copy. πŸ™‚

4) Strange Horizons is currently holding its annual fund drive. There are prizes listed here, but it isn’t the full list yet; they’re adding stuff as the drive goes on. Two of the additions will be a signed pair of the UK trade paperbacks of A Natural History of Dragons and The Tropic of Serpents, and a signed ARC of the third book in the Memoirs of Lady Trent, Voyage of the Basilisk. If you want a crack at those, head on over and pledge some money!

5) I’ve got another ebook coming out next week, this one a collection of my dark fairy-tale retellings called Monstrous Beauty. You can pre-order it right now from Amazon or Kobo, or wait until next week and get it from Book View Cafe, Barnes and Noble, or iTunes. Just in time for Halloween!

Hear ye, hear ye! (Also see, maybe buy)

For the Driftwood fans out there (I know there are more than a few of you), Wilson Fowlie has read “The Ascent of Unreason” for Podcastle. If you missed it when BCS podcasted it, or when they published the text version, head on over and give it a listen!

Also, in the “good causes” category of links: Pat Rothfuss, the brain behind the Worldbuilders fundraising charity for Heifer International, has decided he isn’t pouring enough time and effort into benefiting the world, so he’s expanded his enterprise into selling signed first editions from authors who wish to donate a few. I think I sent in ten copies of The Tropic of Serpents; no idea how many are left, but (as of me posting this) there’s at least one. The money goes to charity, so if you want a book and the warm glow of knowing you’ve done something good, this is a splendid chance to get both at once.

(I don’t have five things to make a post, but I do have this: another shout-out for A Natural History of Dragons over on io9, this time in the context of “10 Great Novels That Will Make You More Passionate About Science.” It’s a list that makes for some pretty interesting reading, I must say.)

Building a Better World

Some of you may have seen this excellent set of posts on the blog Generation Anthropocene, using details from George R.R. Martin’s novels to try and build a geological history of Westeros and Essos. It’s a fantabulous bit of geekery, marrying serious scientific know-how to one of the big challenges of writing speculative fiction, that task we refer to as “worldbuilding.”

I read those posts, grinned at the geekery — and then paused.

And clicked around a bit.

And sent an email.

A couple of months later, I am the proud owner of a tectonic map of Lady Trent’s world, along with extensive notes on the geology and climate of her planet. Mike Osborne and Miles Traer of Generation Anthropocene were kind enough to read through the first two Memoirs and take my description of the places that show up in #3, then help me work out the underpinnings of that world in greater detail than I had already. I’m pleased to say that my efforts on the climate front pretty much held up to their scrutiny; I don’t have any howling errors there. Figuring out the tectonics, though, gave me information I need for future maps, and provided a number of new considerations I’ll definitely be trying to work into the last two books.

I want to thank these guys publicly, because they have done yeoman work on my behalf. If this kind of nerdiness is your catnip, you should definitely check out the Generation Anthropocene site.

All Around the Internet

I’ve done a number of interviews and guest posts lately, so here’s a quick link dump:

Five Underused Mythological Creatures at Fantasy Cafe, in which I talk about weird things in bestiaries that show up all too rarely in novels.

Interview at Fantasy’s Ink; they ask me about my favorite characters and what I consider to be the most important element in a book.

Another interview, this one with Mike Underwood, who leverages the fact that we’ve known each other for more than ten years to ask me a lot of fabulous questions about gaming, Driftwood, and what martial arts master I would train with if I could.

“Time, Writing, and Tricks of the Trade”, a guest post at Bookworm Blues where I talk about the challenges of writing a sequel fifteen years after the first book.

“Kick(start)ing Myself into Scrivener”, a post at Book View Cafe on my first-ever attempt to write a novel in a program other than Wordperfect.

And finally, one that isn’t mine, but mentions me and makes for entertaining reading: Science in Fantasy Novels is More Accurate Than in Science Fiction.

Updates: Kickstarter, tour, sale, SF Novelists, WisCon

Five updates make a post . . . .

1) The Chains and Memory Kickstarter is a bit over halfway to the first stretch goal. The pace of progress has (unsurprisingly) slowed down; I welcome any signal boosting, and/or suggestions for other things I could do to spread the word.

2) While Mary and I were on tour earlier this month, Tor sent a camera crew to film our Portland event and interview us afterward. It was a fascinating experience; this wasn’t the “sit and have a conversation in front of the camera” kind of thing, but rather raw material for the following video:

If you’d like a sense of what our events were like, check it out!

3) Driftwood fans take note: I’ve sold the audio rights for “The Ascent of Unreason” to Podcastle.

4) My SF Novelists post for this month was “Pleaser Don’t Doed Thising”, in which I take aim at Bad Fantasy Latin, Bad Fantasy Japanese, and other such linguistic sins.

5) WisCon! I went. It was a thing.

Sorry, that’s just the tiredness talking. Going to WisCon was a good idea; going right after being on tour, less so. I feel like I didn’t take full advantage of the experience, partly because I was going easy on myself, partly because I’m new to the con’s culture and therefore didn’t know in advance about things like the Floomp. It was fun, though: lots of interesting people, some good panels (and some I really wish had dug further into their topics), some &@#$! awesome GoH speeches, etc. The good news is, now I know what to expect and can get more out of it in future years. Will I be back in 2015? Dunno; I’ll have to look at my schedule. But I do intend to be back eventually.

Design Your Own Dragon: Winners!

I’m pleased to announce the winners of the Design Your Own Dragon contest!

Choosing the winning entries was much harder than I anticipated. Some of the criteria were straightforward; for example, the concept had to be one which fit into the paradigm of dragons in Isabella’s world, but did not duplicate too closely something already described in the series. (My apologies to those of you whose entries resembled breeds that will be appearing in Voyage of the Basilisk. You had no way of knowing those particular niches were already filled.) After I filtered for that, though, I still had quite a few possibilities. Then it was a matter of considering which ones could be most easily incorporated into the later books, which is easier said than done.

In the end, I narrowed it down to two winners. Without further ado, I give you: Yubin Kim’s honeyseeker, and Kate Parkinson’s Mrtyahaiman mew!

HONEYSEEKERS are nectar-loving arboreal creatures that thrive in eucalyptus forests. Typically 12~14 cm long, Honeyseekers are light-bodied with broad, manoeuvrable wings and a prehensile tail which allow them to cling to thin flowering branches, where they soak up nectar with their brush tipped tongue. During winter when blooms are scarce, Honeyseekers supplement their diet with insects caught with their clever foreclaws.

The species display sexual dimorphism and while the females are a drab muddy green, the males sport glittering black and yellow scales and a sapphire-blue crest. The males build nests and display to attract females, who then mate with those they judge worthy and leave after laying a single egg. When a sufficient number of eggs are gathered, the males incubate and raise the young alone.

When threatened, Honeyseekers breath a noxious spray in the eyes of the predator, a concentrate of toxins gathered from their close association with the eucalyptus. The Honeyseekers are thought to play a large role in the lifecycle of the tree and some blame them for the invasive spread of eucalyptus which are beginning replacing oak woodlands in certain forests.

MYRTYAHAIMAN MEW

A small drake measuring no more than thirty centimetres at the shoulder, this species is called the ‘noisy trickster’ by locals, as well as epithets not appropriate to repeat. Although they meet all other criteria, mews do not have any special property to their breath and are thus classified as draconic cousins rather than true drakes. Their name derives from their distinctive call which resembles the mew of a cat.

Mews are typically black with bronze tones to their scales, although brown and even albino specimens have been noted. Flocks of up to thirty individuals have been sighted but they are most often seen in groups of three or four. They are intelligent and resourceful creatures and are often attracted to human settlements, where they pillage shiny objects and scavenge through rubbish pits and middens. This behaviour has sometimes led to them becoming unpopular with humans.

Mews love fatty foods and have been known to land on the back of sheep to pick out pieces of flesh. There are legends of mews stampeding flocks of sheep or goats over cliffs to feast upon the remains, though this has never been reliably documented.

A gathering of mews is called a festival.

My thanks to everyone who participated; it was a lot of fun seeing what you all came up with!

Tour report, and one day to go!

Design Your Own Dragon ends tomorrow night! Get your entry in while the getting is good . . . .

Me, I’m home from tour. The fact that I am exceedingly glad to be back has more to do with the wear and tear of shifting from hotel to airport to cab to store than to do with the tour events themselves, which were splendid. Mary Robinette Kowal and I drew some pretty good crowds together, and it turns out we make for compatible traveling companions — which was by no means a guarantee! We’d met a couple of times before, at conventions and such, and of course our books make a good pairing with each other . . . but that didn’t necessarily mean we’d get along on the road. Despite Mary having her own hashtag for travel woes, I quite liked traveling with her. It turns out we see eye-to-eye on a number of fronts, ranging from fiction to how early we should get to the airport, and that’s valuable when you’re spending a week and a half together and suffering the aforementioned wear and tear.

Plus! There were costumes! And dragon bones!

I foolishly did not get anyone to take photos on my own phone, so rather than stealing other people’s pictures, I will link you to them. This report at A Truant Disposition shows the whole thing pretty well, from my dress and Mary’s to our respective song-and-dance bit (a mini puppet show on her part, a mini naturalist lecture on mine). Geeky Library has some more, and I quite like this photo from @ghostwritingcow on Twitter. The “dragon bones” are the thing I alluded to before the tour: Mary suggested I obtain replica dinosaur fossils from Skulls Unlimited, and use them as dragon substitutes. For the curious, the skull and the smaller claw are from a velociraptor, while the tooth is from a T-Rex and the larger claw is from a megaraptor. (The tiny skull, which I don’t think got photographed, is actually supposed to be a “dragon skull;” Mary picked it up at a natural history museum in Utah.)

Touring is a lot more fun in company, I have to say. Not only does it jazz up the event itself, by giving you somebody to riff off of, it does a lot to mitigate the “oh god I’m in another airport” drudgery of the travel itself. So props to Tor for putting us together, and I hope for a chance to do something like this again in the future.

Four more days to Design Your Own Dragon

We’re headed into the final stretch for Design Your Own Dragon, and I just wanted to clarify something one interested party asked about a few days ago:

You do get to keep the rights to your entry.

Which is to say, if I pick your dragon as a winner, I will have the non-exclusive right to use the concept (with modifications, if necessary) in the Memoirs of Lady Trent, in prose and/or visual form — but you retain all other rights. If you want to write own stories or make your own art about your dragon concept, you are entirely free to do so. You are not signing over your idea to me wholesale.

This was a question for at least one interested party, which means it may very well be a question for others as well. So if that was giving you any hesitation in entering, hopefully this clears things up in an acceptable fashion.

You’ve got until 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on May 15th. I’ve got a lot of fun entries already, but there’s always room for more!