Just a quick notice to say that, unsurprisingly, the end of the month brought in a mini-flood of letters. I’m working diligently to get through them, and should have replies out the door by the end of next week at the latest. But I figure you all would prefer that I prioritize finishing the draft of the final book — not to mention that if I don’t take frequent and lengthy breaks, my cursive gets even worse than it usually is. :-P So it’s one letter here, one letter there, in between other things. And of course a few more may yet come in, things that were mailed before the end of February but took a while to reach Lady Trent’s mailbox.
What with yesterday’s World Fantasy kerfuffle, I forgot to post a reminder that the Month of Letters has begun! If you’d like to receive a letter from Lady Trent, instructions for how to do so are here. (Or, y’know — I’ll answer letters addressed to me, too.) I’ll reply to anything postmarked within the month of February, so get your pens going!
As I have done in past years, I will be participating in Mary Robinette Kowal’s Month of Letters! Ish — the actual point of it was to send something via the mail every day in February, but, inspired by her example, I’ve used it as a time in which people can write to and receive letters from Lady Trent. The process will be exactly the same as in past years.
Time to go practice my cursive . . . .
There’s a few days left in the Lady Trent’s Friends of Nepal fundraiser, with a variety of items still for sale (including some new additions from Linda Nagata and Vonda McIntyre) — plus, of course, donations also put you in the pool for lottery prizes. The page currently says the goal is $750, but I’d love to hit $1K before this is done; it’s a nice round number. :-)
Over on Twitter I joked that I should not resort to blackmail, like saying “Donate or Isabella loses a finger to frostbite in the last book!” But the truth is, I was already thinking about having Isabella lose a finger to frostbite. So really, what I should say is that you have a chance to save her from that fate! (Carrot, not stick.) If we hit $1000, she will make it safely through the series with all ten fingers intact!
. . . yes, writers are horrible people. :-P
But onward to the business promised by the title of this post. By far the hottest item in the sale part of the fundraiser was the ARC of In the Labyrinth of Drakes, due out next spring; all five copies were gone in about twenty-four hours. I know that for some of you in foreign countries, eBay’s estimated shipping costs were prohibitive, since they don’t calculate that according to the cheapest methods. To make up for that, I’m doing a giveaway of my own, with no purchase required. All you have to do to enter is be signed up to my mailing list; both current subscribers and those who sign up now will be included in the pool. On Friday I’ll use a random number generator to pick a winner. (If you win and don’t want the book for whatever reason, e.g. you haven’t read any of the series or you already got an ARC through other means, you can decline and I’ll pick a new recipient.) Here’s your chance to get a signed ARC for free!
. . . but you should still donate if you can. You don’t want Isabella to lose a finger, do you? >_>
As those of you who read my booklog posts have probably guessed, for the fifth and final volume of the Memoirs of Lady Trent, our intrepid heroine is going to a region based on the real-world Himalaya. I’ve been reading a fair bit about that area, and in the course of doing so, I’ve been continually reminded about the devastating earthquakes that struck Nepal earlier this year. The immediate need for earthquake relief has passed, but now it’s time to rebuild — and I thought, well, let’s see if I can’t do something to help out.
So I’ve teamed up with Patrick Rothfuss’ Worldbuilders fundraiser, creating Lady Trent’s Friends of Nepal. This is part of the larger Worldbuilders effort, which raises money for Heifer International, but all donations received as part of the Friends of Nepal project will specifically go to Heifer’s Nepal programs. In another couple of days there will be a page specifically for the Friends of Nepal, with books and other items offered for sale, the chance to donate for lottery prizes (a la the usual Worldbuilders setup), and some auctions.
Why am I posting before that page is live?
Because one of the featured elements of the Friends of Nepal fundraiser is live right now, and ending in just over a day. Bid here for the chance to appear in the final Memoir of Lady Trent! One lucky winner will have a character in the last book named after them, or a person of their choice. Who exactly that character will be will depend on the gender and ethnicity of the name, but possibilities include a scholar of the mysterious Draconean language, an intrepid mountaineer, a foreign diplomat, and more.
Bidding is up to $200, which is absolutely fantastic. (From my “let’s raise money for Nepal” perspective; not so much for those of you who would love to bid but can’t afford it.) You’ve got until 7:20 PST Sunday to get your own bid in — that’s 10:20 EST, and 3:20 a.m. Monday morning UTC/GMT. And if you don’t win the Tuckerization, don’t worry; there will be a bunch of other items on offer pretty soon . . .
. . . including signed ARCs of In the Labyrinth of Drakes. That’s right — you could have a chance to read it before it’s even published.
Stay tuned for more news!
I just sent the first draft off to my editor; that makes the fourth Memoir a Real Thing now, ’cause other people are going to be reading it.
Doing the final polishes before kicking it out the door, I came upon one scene where I felt like I needed to amp up the emotional force a bit. So I went to the middle of the scene, stuck in a few line breaks, and started typing a new paragraph that would take what was going on and foreground it a bit more overtly. I wrote a sentence . . . started another one . . . deleted it . . . wrote a second sentence . . . started a third . . . deleted that and the second sentence . . . and after a lot of fiddling, I had a new paragraph, which I joined up to the following text. I looked it over, polished it a bit, tweaked some words — and then deleted the whole paragraph.
Because I was trying to play the wrong game.
These aren’t the sorts of books in which the narrator lays out her emotional state for the reader to marinate in. Those lines I had so much trouble writing? They were too overt. They were modern in style, rather than the buttoned-up Victorian tone I’ve been aiming for this whole time. I don’t pretend this will work for every reader, but: as far as I’m concerned, that scene has more impact, or at least more the kind of impact I’m going for, when I keep it simple. Less is more.
This is on my mind right now because my husband and I just finished watching Agent Carter, and we’re also nearing the end of the first season of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. I realized tonight that I’m starting to crave passionate, operatic, heart-on-sleeve declarations of love, because both of those shows feature a lot of very proper characters having All the Feels but never talking about it openly. I said before that I ship Peggy Carter and Edmund Jarvis in a totally platonic way, and I stand by that — but it doesn’t mean I wasn’t flailing during one of the last scenes of this last episode, with the two of them being so very Britishly reserved at one another. And my god, if Jack Robinson and Phryne Fisher don’t kiss by the end of this season, I might throw things at the TV. (A real kiss, I mean. Not a “no I only did that to keep the murderer from noticing you I swear that’s all it was” kiss.)
My reaction means the writers are doing their jobs correctly, of course. And this is the thing romance and horror have in common: they both carry more impact if they tease you for a while first, hinting at stuff and building it slowly before finally delivering the emotional payoff. If you rush the process, it doesn’t work as well. But if you play the tension right, if you see only hints of the monster or the occasional Meaningful Gaze between the characters . . . then you don’t need an enormous payoff to get a lot of energy out of it. One kiss can work as well as — or better than — the characters falling into bed; one brief shot of the monster’s face can horrify you more than seeing the entire thing.
When it’s done well, I adore this sort of thing. Too steady of a diet, though, and I start feeling like I need some characters with a bit less self-control. But tell me: what are your favorite “oh my god this tiny thing was so incredibly meaningful” emotional payoffs in a story, or your favorite “and then we pulled out all of the stops and fired up the jet engines and went so far over the top we couldn’t even see it with binoculars” moments?
Ladies, gentlemen, and those who for reasons of gender or misbehavior count themselves as neither, I am exceedingly pleased to announce that I have a finished draft of the fourth Memoir of Lady Trent, at 88,748 words.
(What’s the title? You’ll have to wait to find that out until after Voyage of the Basilisk has been released. Because I’m mean that way.)
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.”
I’ve been remiss in advertising this, largely because I’ve had my head buried in the first draft of the next Memoir. (Current word count: 33,191, and Isabella’s brother is endearing himself to me for being the kind of guy who will say things other characters won’t.) BUT! Time has not yet run out, for me or for you!
Book View Cafe is having an ENORMOUS sale right now, continuing through January 1st. I will not attempt to list all the participating titles, because omgwtfbbq there are a lot of them — but Lies and Prophecy is one of them. Since one of the other things eating my head right now is revisions on Chains and Memory, this is a dandy time to pick up the first book, if you haven’t already. Or, y’know, one of the other splendid offerings. Or all of the above! (Now I’m wondering if any crazy person has actually bought every single sale title, just for the heck of it.)
You have a few days left to take advantage of this, though not as many as you might have had my brain not been snack food for my current obligations. Should still be enough time, though. Go forth and enjoy!
Do not end your day’s work with a line like this:
Lord Rossmere was not speaking to inform us, though; all that was prelude to his next statement.
Because when you come back to the text, you will not remember what that next statement was supposed to be. (Possibly I never knew, and that was just me reminding myself to justify the “as you know, Bob” dialogue that precedes it. I haven’t worked on this bit since before my NY/DC trip, so I really don’t recall.)
On the other hand, I am pleased with this line:
I did not say to him that I had kept the information secret precisely to avoid our current situation. First, because it was only true in part; and second, because Tom was stepping firmly on my foot.
Would you believe that Tom was originally a throwaway character invented solely because somebody like Lord Hilford wouldn’t travel alone? The stuff about his working-class origins came later, so that he and Isabella wouldn’t be nonentities to one another. And then I decided, almost on a whim, to have him become an actual colleague, at least to the extent of going to Bayembe with Isabella. Next thing I knew, he was a fixture of the story, and one of my favorite characters in the entire series.
It only looks like we plan this stuff. Half of it happens by accident.