“If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.”
– William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell
Payne’s gray, cold gray, pewter, silver, warm gray.
Bronze, brown ochre, burnt sienna, burnt umber, copper, gold ochre, orange ochre, modern brown, raw sienna, raw umber, stil de grain brown, transparent oxide brown, Vandyke brown, yellow ochre.
One of these lists is not like the other, right? Read more
This week, in between more amusing activities involving a five-year-old on a trampoline and a suddenly mobile baby trying to eat the Christmas tree decorations, I’ve been adding front and back matter to A Revolution of Rubies in preparation for formatting and publishing. Usually I put a teaser for the next book in series at the back, but this time there isn’t a next book in series. I could put the start of the Regency fantasy that’s up next, or the first chapter of the upcoming series that’s kind of a spin-off from this one… or I might do something completely different.
I’ve noticed that a lot of books now have a list of Book Group Questions at the end. I can see the benefit from the publisher’s point of view – getting a book picked up by a discussion group has to be great for sales – but most of the questions seem to be written by literary types who are all about symbolism and subtext and not at all interested in storytelling and having fun. So I had a crack at creating my own BGQ’s for A Revolution of Rubies. And concluded that I’m no good at this; most of these questions are only fun before you’ve read the book. Oh, well. I guess I’ll put a teaser for Salt Magic at the end of the book, after all. Meanwhile, enjoy:
1. Thalia and the rest of the Center for Applied Topology have been sent to Europe to ingratiate themselves in diplomatic circles so that they can help bug the homes and offices of the diplomats. What could possibly go wrong with turning a bunch of topologists loose among diplomats? What couldn’t go wrong?
2. Would you steal a woman’s borrowed rubies in order to get access to her niece’s paranormal abilities? Wouldn’t you even wonder about the wisdom of provoking someone who can become invisible and walk through walls?
3. If a foreign agent and a woman with serious skills in card manipulation walk into Casino Barcelona, who’s going to have to borrow cab fare home?
4. Lensky flatly forbids Thalia to try using her paranormal abilities in certain contexts. More than once. Whatever could have given him the illusion this would work? Will the handcuffs do it?
5. A Revolution of Rubies takes place in Paris, Barcelona, and the imaginary Central Asian country of Taklanistan. Talk about these places from Thalia’s point of view, with particular attention to the various forms of chocolate-enhanced snacks available in each one.
A week ago I finished the first draft of what I’m provisionally calling A Trail of Dragon Scales, and this time I’m doing something a little bit different after that. The first couple of days went as usual: a euphoric sense of accomplishment, slight mystification about why nobody is having a parade for such a fine fellow as I am, the dawning realization that we don’t actually have any champagne… After a few days of trying not to break an arm patting myself on the back, usually I pull up my socks and get started on the next book.
But if you count Dragon Scales – and I do, because it doesn’t appear to need any structural editing, just the usual reading and re-reading for minor fixes – I currently have four completed books in the publication queue. Even I can’t create a sense of urgency about finishing another one in the next couple of months. And the next book isn’t helping out with that, either: there’s this one major theme and resolution floating around in my head, surrounded by huge gaping bubbles of nothing where the rest of the plot ought to be.
And, you know, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Cookies to bake, grandchildren to spoil, all that good stuff.
So I made an Executive Decision: any time I’ve got four books waiting for proofreading and covers and formatting, I’m taking a month off.
That worked fine for the week of babbling idiocy that frequently follows a prolonged writing push, but I started getting twitchy yesterday and revised the plan. Okay, for the rest of the month I will spend half an hour each day fishing around in my subconscious for the rest of that missing plot, and I will do… something… about marketing and promotion every day. Follow up on some of those programs that are recommended for tracking sales or picking keywords or whatever, evaluate some promotion sites, learn how to do Amazon ads. Whatever. I’m just trying to tame the general topic, which right now looks to me like a writhing mass of tentacles straight out of Cthulhu, into… well, at least into a collection of subtopics that can be addressed one at a time. Each of which will, most likely, also look like a writhing mass of tentacles, but you have to start somewhere, right? Read more
I’m quite fond of this device, though I admit that in its simplest form (“and then I woke up and it was all a dream”) it has been done to death. No, I didn’t think Agatha Christie was cheating in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, and I enjoyed the double-impostor twist of Mary Stewart’s The Ivy Tree with its narrator who misleads us delightfully by telling the truth… just, not all the truth. So I was pleased to see a new twist on this in one of the fantasy novels I’ve been reading via Kindle Unlimited, and I’ve made a note of the author for further reading.
In W.B. McKay’s Bound by Faerie the narrator is hired to retrieve a magical artifact. She’s warned in advance:
Today, however, we’d gotten word that Lou was in possession of a heavily enchanted necklace. I hadn’t been given any particulars about its power, just a strict warning not to put it on and a description.
Of course she puts it on – what do you think? It’s part of the rules of the game, isn’t it? Psyche brings in a lamp to gaze on Cupid, Beauty picks up the only remaining spindle in the kingdom, and McKay’s Sophie Morrigan puts on the necklace, part of whose enchantment is the power to lure her into doing exactly that. Read more
The Internet is a glorious thing. Recently I was mourning the loss of a treasured paperback, an edition of Northanger Abbey dating from the heyday of the ’70’s Gothic romance. But all I really wanted was the cover — the text was, after all, exactly the same as it is in my three other editions of the book — and a quick Internet search supplied that.
The back cover blurb seems to be artfully composed of very carefully chosen passages from the scene where Catherine discovers the manuscript which will, by daylight, turn out to be an inventory of household linen:
I think of myself as a squeamish person. I don’t read horror novels or thrillers that delve lovingly into deranged minds. Heck, I can’t even read the icky bits in Diana Gabaldon’s books.
So I was rather disturbed, the other day, to discover that some part of my mind has been lovingly detailing scenarios that I don’t ever want to read, much less write. I’m not going to write the details, because I found them really upsetting and I want to bleach my brain now, but here’s what happened: We were watching a cop show and came to the obligatory scene where somebody is tied to a chair and somebody else is trying to get information out of him by hitting him in the face, and I turned to the First Reader and said, “You know, I can think of a lot more effective ways to torture somebody for information. Why don’t they…. Or they could try…. Or they wouldn’t even need a blowtorch, a little butane torch would….
At this point the First Reader, he who can read accounts of historical atrocities with no trouble, began turning green, and I shut up.
And spent the rest of the evening wondering just what part of my mind had been collecting ideas for truly stomach-turning tortures, and how I could divert it to another track. Because I don’t like torture. I don’t like to read about it, I don’t write it, and I really, really hate that a part of the fiction writer’s mind inside me has been collecting this stuff.
But… it’s there. Even if I’m not going to inflict it on you, I know now that it’s there.
What surprising pathways does your writer’s mind wander down without conscious direction?
For fiction writers, paragraphs are a form of punctuation. They break up large blocks of text, they signal a slight change of emphasis or subject, and sometimes they’re like the pause before a comic delivers the punch line. Let’s take an example – it’s not intended to be an example of good writing, it’s just something I threw together for demonstration purposes.
Blocks of text:
The castle, beautiful and vulnerable, rose from a hill covered with juniper trees. Built of white stone that glowed almost golden, it was an impressive sight in the light of the setting sun. Elion deduced from the location and the light golden hue that it had been built of locally quarried limestone, not the best choice for defensive walls. Within those walls, he could see a profusion of towers, balconies, peaked roofs and aerial bridges from one tower to another. If one could erect a catapult on the sloping ground outside the walls, it would make short work of those bridges. High arched windows in the towers doubtless let in the natural daylight, but they could also let in besiegers who climbed the towers making full use of the decorative carvings covering the outside. As for the aerial bridges, a catapult would make short work of them. Still, the castle was beautiful in an overwrought Gothic way. It would be attractive to a traveler who was not concerned with defense. His companion, Zaleria, spurred her horse forward across the narrow bridge from the previous hill. She was eager to reach the imposing gateway that was currently closed by massive doors ornamented with evil-looking spikes. As if they were expecting an elephant to ram the doors, Elion thought.
And I think the reader will skim all this and not really take in most of it – which would be a pity, because you wouldn’t have written all this detail unless you meant to use it later, right?