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Posts Tagged ‘voyage of the basilisk’

Design Your Own Dragon: final week!

Just a reminder that the Design Your Own Dragon contest will be ending in a little more than a week, at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on April 30th. This is your chance not only to win an ARC of Voyage of the Basilisk (once we have some on hand), but to have your very own creation included in the Memoirs of Lady Trent. I may choose up to three winners, depending partly on how many entries I get — so in a sense, the more of you that enter, the better your chances are!

(Okay, really I’m just selfish. I’ve enjoyed the heck out of reading the entries thus far, and am eager to see what else people come up with.)

E-mail your submissions to dragons.of.trent {at} gmail.com. You’ve got about one week left!

Tour update; also Mary is a genius; also interview

The full schedule for my joint tour with Mary Robinette Kowal has been posted at Tor.com:

Thursday, May 1, 6:00 p.m.
DePaul University
Chicago, IL

Friday, May 2, 7:00 p.m.
University Bookstore
Seattle, WA

Saturday, May 3, 2:00 p.m.
Powell’s Books at Cedar Hill Crossing
Portland, OR

Sunday, May 4, 3:00 p.m.
Book Bin
Salem, OR

Tuesday, May 6, 6:30 p.m.
Murder by the Book
Houston, TX

Thursday, May 8, 6:00 p.m.
Weller Book Works
Salt Lake City, UT

Saturday, May 10, 2:00 p.m.
Mysterious Galaxy (Part of the Mysterious Galaxy 21st Birthday Bash!)
San Diego, CA

Sunday, May 11, 3:00 p.m.
Borderlands Books
San Francisco, CA

And I would like to state for the record that Mary is a genius. She made a suggestion for something I could do during the events which — well, you’ll just have to wait and see, won’t you? (Yes, this is my transparent bid to build suspense and get you all to come.) I promise I’ll talk about it after the tour, for those of you who don’t live anywhere near our stops or can’t make it to the events, but for now you’ll just have to wonder. (Hint: it involves my husband marveling, once again, at what kinds of things can be written off as business expenses for a writer.)

Also, there’s a new interview with me up at Just a World Away, in which I talk a little bit about Voyage of the Basilisk (among other things).

Reminder: Design Your Own Dragon!

The entries for the Design Your Own Dragon contest have started to come in, so here’s a quick recap for those who may have missed the first announcement:

* * *

From the newly released The Tropic of Serpents and the first book in the series, A Natural History of Dragons, readers know Isabella, Lady Trent, to be the world’s preeminent dragon naturalist. She is the remarkable woman who brought the study of dragons out of the misty shadows of myth and misunderstanding into the clear light of modern science.

The world of Lady Trent is home to a myriad of different dragon species, from the fire-breathing desert drakes of Akhia to the tiny draconic cousins known as sparklings. Now you have a chance to expand the borders of dragon naturalism, by adding your own species to the mix!

All you have to do is invent a breed of dragon or draconic cousin that might fit into Lady Trent’s world. Write up a description of no more than two hundred words covering its appearance and habitat, any noteworthy behaviors, and so on. An example of a write up, Marie Brennan’s wyvern, is below. Then submit your invention to dragons.of.trent@gmail.com, with the header “DRAGON: {name}”. Marie Brennan will select one to three entries and reference them in a future installment of the Memoirs of Lady Trent. Winners will also receive a signed Advance Reader Copy of Voyage of the Basilisk, the third book in the series, when those become available (late 2014).

This contest is open to entrants worldwide. No more than three submissions per entrant; any subsequent e-mails will be deleted unread. The contest will close to entries at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on April 30th, and winners will be announced on May 12th.

WYVERN — A reptilian creature native to northern and eastern Anthiope, possessing hind limbs and wings, but lacking forelimbs, which disqualifies it for consideration as a “true dragon” under the criteria of Sir Richard Edgeworth. Wyverns are typically 3-4 meters in length from nose to tail, with a comparable wingspan, and light of build through the chest. Their coloration is mottled brown and green, for protective colouration in the treeless hills that are their usual habitat. They typically hunt by waiting in an elevated position and then launching into the air when prey is sighted. Their venom is paralytic, and kills the prey through asphyxiation. Wyverns are solitary except when they mate, but the male will follow the female until she lays her eggs, after which they incubate in the care of the male, who feeds them and teaches them to hunt after hatching. Juveniles rarely stay with their father for more than three months, by which point they are capable of independent sustenance.

Design Your Own Dragon!

From the newly released The Tropic of Serpents and the first book in the series, A Natural History of Dragons, readers know Isabella, Lady Trent, to be the world’s preeminent dragon naturalist. She is the remarkable woman who brought the study of dragons out of the misty shadows of myth and misunderstanding into the clear light of modern science.

The world of Lady Trent is home to a myriad of different dragon species, from the fire-breathing desert drakes of Akhia to the tiny draconic cousins known as sparklings. Now you have a chance to expand the borders of dragon naturalism, by adding your own species to the mix!

All you have to do is invent a breed of dragon or draconic cousin that might fit into Lady Trent’s world. Write up a description of no more than two hundred words covering its appearance and habitat, any noteworthy behaviors, and so on. An example of a write up, Marie Brennan’s wyvern, is below. Then submit your invention to dragons.of.trent@gmail.com, with the header “DRAGON: {name}”. Marie Brennan will select one to three entries and reference them in a future installment of the Memoirs of Lady Trent. Winners will also receive a signed Advance Reader Copy of Voyage of the Basilisk, the third book in the series, when those become available (late 2014).

This contest is open to entrants worldwide. No more than three submissions per entrant; any subsequent e-mails will be deleted unread. The contest will close to entries at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on April 30th 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on May 15th (note the extension!), and winners will be announced on May 26th.

Sample entry:

WYVERN — A reptilian creature native to northern and eastern Anthiope, possessing hind limbs and wings, but lacking forelimbs, which disqualifies it for consideration as a “true dragon” under the criteria of Sir Richard Edgeworth. Wyverns are typically 3-4 meters in length from nose to tail, with a comparable wingspan, and light of build through the chest. Their coloration is mottled brown and green, for protective colouration in the treeless hills that are their usual habitat. They typically hunt by waiting in an elevated position and then launching into the air when prey is sighted. Their venom is paralytic, and kills the prey through asphyxiation. Wyverns are solitary except when they mate, but the male will follow the female until she lays her eggs, after which they incubate in the care of the male, who feeds them and teaches them to hunt after hatching. Juveniles rarely stay with their father for more than three months, by which point they are capable of independent sustenance.

Things They Do Not Teach You in Writer School, #17

So as I mentioned before, I think this book is going to run a little long.

How exactly do I know that?

Nobody ever talks about this in books of writing advice, at least not that I’ve ever seen. Nor have I heard it being discussed in creative writing classes (though if your teacher taught you this, I’d love to hear about it). We all know writers need a variety of skills, things like characterization and plotting and the ability to string together an interesting sentence . . . but nobody talks about how you learn to tell how much story you’ve got in your hand.

I thought of this because I was doing some calculations, trying to figure out how hard I would need to drive myself to get a draft done by the end of the month. It’s a little tricky, doing that math when you don’t actually know what goes on the other side of the equal sign. I knew I couldn’t fit the remaining plot into ten thousand words; fine, that means I’ll overrun my target length of 90K. By how much? Not sure. Well, okay: if I wrote two thousand words a day instead of one thousand, then I could write 26K by the end of the month. Ooof, no, way overkill — there’s no way this is 26K of plot remaining. Somewhere between 10 and 26. 15-ish, maybe? That sounds about right . . . .

How do I know this? I can’t even really tell you. I am not the sort of writer who says “this chapter will consist of four scenes, two of them one thousand words long and the other two five hundred.” The scenes are as long as they need to be to get the job done, and I find out how long that is by writing them. I keep forgetting to put in chapter breaks, because for four years I wrote Onyx Court novels that didn’t have any; now I go back and drop them in wherever there’s an appropriate point within a certain range of wordcount. But I can only forecast by approximation: can I get Isabella off Lahaui in a thousand words? Definitely not. Two thousand? Ehhhh, maybe . . . (Verdict as of tonight’s writing: nope, definitely not.) I won’t need five thousand, that’s for damn sure. Somewhere between 2 and 5.

I have to do this all book long. I want to write a 90K book; that means I need to be able to judge how much stuffing goes into the sausage. I sort of weigh it in my hand as I go, looking at the casing, trying to decide whether I should pack more in or not. Eventually I start to feel like okay, we’re at the point now where it’s time to pull things together and wrap them up, rather than adding in new stuff. Within a certain margin of error, I’m right. (When Ashes ran 30K long, I saw that coming a mile off. I hadn’t even finished writing Part One when I e-mailed my editor to say, we’re gonna need a bigger boat.)

Nobody taught me how to do this. I don’t know if it can be taught, because the answers can vary so much from writer to writer. What one person knocks off in five hundred words, another might spend two thousand on. Even if you’re the sort who outlines ahead of time instead of making it up as you go along, you need a sense for how many words it will take you to say something. And I’m not sure how you acquire that sense, other than by writing a lot and seeing how many words you end up with.

All of which is just sort of me rambling, because wordcount has been on my brain lately. But it’s one of those things I never really see discussed — a skill nobody tells you you’ll have to acquire.

I knew this was coming

Oh god, book. You’re going to run long, aren’t you?

Of course you’re going to run long. We’re at eighty thousand words, and Isabella has only just reached Lahaui. There’s still [spoiler] to recognize, [spoiler] to steal (again), [more spoilers] to find, and then [great big spoiler] before we can have our denoument. I don’t think I’m going to manage that in the next ten thousand words.

. . . bugger.

Has any author anywhere in the world ever written a series that got shorter as it went along? (Probably.) But the natural tendency of series seems to be to acquire a few thousand extra words here, a few thousand there, as you get more accustomed to the characters and the setting and find more interesting (and complex) (and wordy) things to do with them.

Oh well. I suppose I should just be glad this isn’t In Ashes Lie, running thirty thousand words over my original estimate. NEVER. AGAIN.

131 more words to go tonight, and then I can stop. Because three 3K days in a row is fun! >_<

(Actually, it kind of is. But only because I’m filling those 3K wodges with pulp-tastic adventurey goodness.)

Books read, December 2013

A bit belated — I didn’t want to post anything in the first days of the year because I was busy getting my WordPress setup functional.

Mother of the Believers, Kamran Pasha. A novel about the founding and early days of Islam, from the perspective of Muhammad’s wife Aisha.

It’s always tough, reading a fictionalized account of something like this: I find myself going “oh look, another enemy has converted to their side, geez, this ‘Messenger of God’ guy is such a Gary Stu.” Which, you know, missing the point. At the same time, though, it gestures in the direction of an actual problem, which is that it’s Pasha’s responsibility to sell me on the events he’s describing, and he didn’t always succeed. He could have done it one of two ways — either by emphasizing the numinous and miraculous, or by digging into the motivations of the people involved to help me understand why they acted that way. I would have been fine with either. Sadly, Pasha didn’t quite manage to do that consistently. Couple that with the fact that I really disagree with his handling of Aisha’s age (I think his reasoning is flawed and he failed to follow through on it anyway), and it’s surprising that I found this as engaging and readable as I did. But: engaging and readable, so recommended if you want to read a novel about the founding and early days of Islam.

A Tale of Time City, Diana Wynne Jones. Re-read for Yuletide (look for a post about that soon). It is still a lovely book. And I have even more fondness for Elio than I did before — writing fanfic will do that to you.

Ancient Hawai’i, Herb Kawainui Kane. Read for research, on the recommendation of Kate Elliott. It’s a brief and abundantly illustrated book about pre-contact Hawaiian society, ergo useful to me.

Moon Over Soho, Ben Aaronovitch. Once again, I feel like the two plots in here were just happening to share a book, rather than tying together very well. I was also deeply uninterested in Peter’s romantic relationship — or rather, his sexual relationship, since I got very little sense of any substance to it other than bedplay. (In fact, that skew had me convinced for a while that his fixation was going to prove to be a Significant Thing, to a much greater degree than turned out to be the case.) Having said that, I still enjoy the general feel of this series, and I very much liked the way the consequences of the previous book played out. To some extent, this is the denouement I felt was lacking before — though I still would have liked more at the end of Book One.

Whispers Under Ground, Ben Aaronovitch. Better plotting! In part, I think, because the B plot here is actually just a continuation of what got set up in #2, and isn’t looking to be resolved any time soon, so it tooled happily along being its own thing and I didn’t expect it to interlock with the A plot the way I kept wanting before. Mind you, I found the thing they uncovered at the end to be a little O_o . . . but I may be okay with that, if the series follows through on what it’s been hinting about for a while now. There’s a point at which you really start questioning how much longer the world can go on failing to notice all the weird shit going on — I’m just sayin’.

(Ten points from Ravenclaw, though, for atrociously misleading cover copy. I expected this book to heavily feature Peter working with Agent Reynolds and having to dodge around her evangelical faith. Instead Reynolds just shows up sporadically and shows virtually no signs of being the “born-again Christian” she was billed as. I’m not sure the former would have actually been good, but it’s what I was led to expect, so the lack was annoying.)

Also: more Quicksilver. Because I have always been reading Quicksilver. And I will always be reading Quicksilver.

‘Tis the season of good news, after all . . . .

I’ve been scarce around here because I’m head-down in the third book of the Memoirs, but I do feel compelled to brag a little bit more. 🙂

The big thing is the Sword and Laser podcast (also posted here), which gives a brief but glowing review of A Natural History of Dragons. Why is this a big thing? Well, apart from the fact that they’ll be interviewing me soon, check out the URL on that first link. They’re partnered with BoingBoing, which means that for a little while yesterday, their review was posted on the front page of BoingBoing.

I don’t know what that did to my sales, but I bet it was pretty good. ^_^

And then you’ve got Mary Robinette Kowal saying exceedingly nice things over on Book Smugglers, and Liz Bourke singled it out as one of her favorite books of the year, and so did Juliet Kincaid, and y’all, this is so totally the best thing I could have when we’re nine days from the solstice and I’m in the Middle of the Book and everything is conspiring to make me have no energy and just want to sleeeeeeeeep. (Well, that and caffeine. Of which I have some in the fridge.)

Now if you’ll pardon me, I have to go chop a character’s hand off.

(No, I’m not telling you whose.)

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