FF: The Proof Is With Persephone

July 12, 2019

Persephone Is Proud To Protect the Proof

The photo above is of my cat Persephone with the print proof of Wolf’s Search.  That proof is one of the things I’ll be reading over the next few days.  Fingers crossed but, at a quick look, it seems to be in good shape.

For those of you just discovering this part of my blog, the Friday Fragments lists what I’ve read over the past week.  Most of the time I don’t include details of either short fiction (unless part of a book-length collection) or magazines.

The Fragments are not meant to be a recommendation list.  If you’re interested in a not-at-all-inclusive recommendation list, you can look on my website under Neat Stuff.

Once again, this is not a book review column.  It’s just a list with, maybe, a bit of description or a few opinions tossed in.

I enjoy hearing what you’re reading, by the way…

Recently Completed:

The Spellcoats by Diana Wynne Jones.  Third of her Dalemark Quartet.  This is a very odd series.  This book takes place so far in the past from events in the first two books that it’s not even a prequel.  The mood of this one was folktale/mythic, rather than the high fantasy adventure of the prior two books.

In Progress:

The Crown of Dalemark by Diana Wynne Jones.  Mitt from Drowned Ammet and Moril from Cart and Cwidder.  Then came a girl name Maewen who seems to be from the Twentieth Century?  I know I read a couple of these earlier, but I think I missed this one and  maybe even The Spellcoats.

Caesar and Christ by Will Durant.  Audiobook.  We’ve taken a look at the Etruscans, and Rome has just solidified its hold on the Italian peninsula.

Also:

Wolf’s Search in various forms.

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Take Flight With Wolf’s Search

July 10, 2019

Back and Front Cover!

As you’ve probably guessed, the image accompanying this post is the official cover for Wolf’s Search.  The art is by Julie Bell, who gave her talents to the art for the first six books, and let me use her “Andre” for the cover of Wolf’s Search.

Many readers of Fantasy and SF are already familiar with Julie Bell’s art, but did you know that doing the covers for the Firekeeper books brought her to doing wildlife art as well?  You can read all about her journey—including the ups and downs along the way—here.

If you’re interested in seeing the original of “Andre,” here’s a link to the proper page on Julie Bell’s site.  You’ll see that her image is just a little different from the one on the cover, but it’s still magnificent.  Even more fascinating, Julie Bell’s painting actually perfectly fit something I’d planned for the book long before I started looking for art.  There is such a thing as serendipity.

Wondering what Wolf’s Search is about?  Let me spare you trying to read off the photo and give you the blurb here!

Transformative Journey

Blind Seer has run at Firekeeper’s side since the wolf-woman first crossed the Iron Mountains into human-held lands.  Now it’s her turn to run alongside the blue-eyed wolf as he sets out in search of someone who can teach him how to use his magical gift—on his own unique terms.

The pair’s search will take them to the far side of the world in the company of allies who include a young woman scarred by war, a falcon who believes himself a traitor, and an old friend… or possibly enemy.  Together they will fight battles from before they were born, climb mountains, cross badlands, eventually unveiling a threat that will reshape not only Blind Seer, but his belief in what he most desires.

As I write this, I’m waiting for the print proof for Wolf’s Search to arrive.  It’s scheduled to get here tomorrow.  Proofing that is the final Big Step before the book is ready for release.  Depending on whether any new errors cropped up in printing, Wolf’s Search could be available as both e-book and trade paperback within a few weeks.

I’ll announce when Wolf’s Search is available as a Wednesday Wandering.  If you can’t wait even a moment, sign up for my Mailing List, since I’ll post the information there as soon as it becomes available.  You can find a link to the mailing list at my website.  My mailing list is only used for important announcements, and I never share the list, so you don’t need to worry about being inundated except by the sort of news you want!

Now, off to see if the proof has arrived.  I know it’s a day early, but I’m very excited!

FF: A Fifth of July

July 5, 2019

Drowsy Keladry

July is here and I hope to have a lot more time to read!

For those of you just discovering this part of my blog, the Friday Fragments lists what I’ve read over the past week.  Most of the time I don’t include details of either short fiction (unless part of a book-length collection) or magazines.

The Fragments are not meant to be a recommendation list.  If you’re interested in a not-at-all-inclusive recommendation list, you can look on my website under Neat Stuff.

Once again, this is not a book review column.  It’s just a list with, maybe, a bit of description or a few opinions tossed in.

Let me know what you’re reading!

Recently Completed:

Imperium: A Novel of Ancient Rome by Robert Harris.  The best parts were Cicero’s speeches.

The Life of Greece by Will Durant.  Audiobook.  We finished with philosophy, then a concluding summary.  Excellent.

Drowned Ammet by Diana Wynne Jones.  Second of her Dalemark Quartet.  A little harder to get into because her protagonists are confused and angry.  The ending is quite interesting, though.

In Progress:

The Spellcoats by Diana Wynne Jones.  Third of her Dalemark Quartet.  Just started.

Caesar and Christ by Will Durant.  Audiobook.  Just started.

Also:

Various magazines that arrived with the beginning of the month reminded me I have a backlog, so doing a fair amount of reading there.

Blue Sky Writing

July 3, 2019

Blue Sky With Hawk and Clouds

I’m going to start this post by saying that I know I’m wrong, and by thanking James, Emily, and Paola for making statements that converged in this Wandering.

Not long ago, I saw a series of posts where an author was providing step-by-step instructions to his readership how to buy his forthcoming release so as to put it on the bestseller lists.  Something in me cringed.  Not because he was wrong, but because I have a lot of trouble doing that sort of thing.

Last weekend, I had an e-mail from a very nice reader asking me why she couldn’t pre-order Wolf’s Search.  I explained that I was still in the last stages of polishing, so it wasn’t up for pre-order.  When it was done, I’d simply post it for sale.   The fan was very nice about that.

However, a lot of current publishing lore, both traditional and independent, would tell me that I am wrong.  My job is not to write the best book I can and then get it to my readers pretty much as soon as it’s ready.  My job is to hold onto the manuscript, build up “buzz,” then release the manuscript at the optimal time to maximize initial sales.

In case you hadn’t heard, initial sales—or in some cases orders or pre-orders—are what “bestseller” lists measure.  Most bestseller lists don’t measure actual sales.  Most don’t measure reader excitement.  Most don’t measure reviews.  What they measure is hype.

Once upon a time, for the majority of books and authors, this was not the case.  Books did not need to hit the bestseller list to be considered worth reading or successful.  Yes.  There were exceptions.  Ever wait to buy the hardcover of your favorite Big Name until it was deep-discounted at the local Big Box Book Store?  Those books were part of making that book a bestseller—books that were pre-ordered but never bought.

I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve been told I’m wrong and old-fashioned in my approach to publishing.  I was late getting into social media because I’m basically shy.  I’m not comfortable itemizing every minute of my life.  I’d feel funny posting eight or ten pictures a day of my cats or the birds in the yard or the toad that was heading off to bed this morning as I got up.

This isn’t to say those people are wrong or crass or anything.  I actually enjoy some of those sort of posts, even if I can’t post that way myself. Time I spend thinking about shouting out or worrying about the latest marketing trend is not only time I don’t spend writing, it’s also time I spend being anxious, upset, and afraid. And when I feel that way, I don’t write.

I found this definition of blue sky thinking on-line: “Blue sky thinking sessions are open to all creative ideas regardless of practical constraints.”  I guess that makes me a blue sky writer.  I look to the mountains east of Albuquerque (the Sandias) and end up putting dragons there.  This makes for an interesting life.  Perhaps more important to you, it makes for the stories you read.  (The dragon in the Sandias was featured in my short story “Spellsword” in the anthology Spell Fantastic.)

Once upon a time, a writer’s job was to create; now many view writing as just one part of the job.  I know I’m wrong.  I get that the world has changed.  But writing is what I do. Am I wrong not to cultivate the lists, to try to be a bestseller, to build my fan base through something other than writing the best stories I can?  Maybe.  But if I want to write, for me, I’m right.

FF: Not For Lack Of Trying

June 28, 2019

Kel Admires How This Cover Goes With Her Eyes

If you missed my happy dancing earlier in the week, the other writer in the family, my husband, Jim, has just had a paper on which he was the lead author accepted to American Antiquity.  This is a star in his already stellar archeological career.

For those of you just discovering this part of my blog, the Friday Fragments lists what I’ve read over the past week.  Most of the time I don’t include details of either short fiction (unless part of a book-length collection) or magazines.

The Fragments are not meant to be a recommendation list.  If you’re interested in a not-at-all-inclusive recommendation list, you can look on my website under Neat Stuff.

Once again, this is not a book review column.  It’s just a list with, maybe, a bit of description or a few opinions tossed in.

I enjoy hearing what you’re reading, by the way…

Recently Completed:

I Sing the Body Electric by Ray Bradbury.  Very much a product of their time in some ways, but the writing remains magnificent.

An Eva Ibbotson Collection (Which Witch; The Secret of Platform 13; Island of the Aunts) by Eva Ibbotson.   Middle grade Fantasy novels.  I enjoyed all of them quite a bit.

In Progress:

Imperium: A Novel of Ancient Rome by Robert Harris.  After reading Will Durant, I have this urge to tell the editor the subtitle should be “Of Late Republic Rome.”  Cicero is not “ancient.”

The Life of Greece by Will Durant.  Audiobook.  The topic is books.  How very many popular authors have vanished is humbling.

Also:

I have been proofing.  Am resigning myself to the fact that I will miss something, but by heaven it won’t be for lack of trying!

Background Noise

June 26, 2019

Frippery Stalled At the Fence

In the background as I type this, I hear the steady sound of Jim putting up a rabbit fence.  Despite our best efforts to close gaps in our aging fence, Frippery Wigglenose Scamperbutt, the rapidly growing baby bunny keeps coming in to eat our bean plants, as well as whatever else he fancies.  Most recently, he tried some exotic Shock-o-Lat sunflowers, nipping them off where they won’t be able to grow back.  Given that he ignored wild sunflower plants of the same size, I admit to being a bit irate.

We actually have a new fence for the west side of our yard on order, but it won’t go up until sometime in July.  Until then, we’re learning what Frippery likes.  Bean plants are definitely on the top of his list.  Variety doesn’t seem to matter.  He’s sampled three varieties of teppary beans, Rattlesnakes, and Purple Queen.  He’s tried sunflowers.  He’s nibbled Swiss chard.  So far he doesn’t like tomato plants or squash plants.  He hasn’t tried the basil, which is a blessing, because he could mow down the row of seedlings in about three minutes.

We have another reason for wanting to keep Frippery out of our backyard.  Our two guinea pigs, Ziggy and Dandelion, have a hutch outside in the shade of the larger catalpa tree.  We don’t know if wild rabbits carry anything that wouldn’t benefit guinea pigs, but we don’t want to find out.  Ziggy, in particular, is a bit fragile.  She loves grass, which we don’t have much of at the best of times, and in this very dry late spring, early summer, we have even less of.  I don’t want Frippery to eat or contaminate Ziggy’s treat.

Still, at times I feel just a little like Farmer McGregor from the Peter Rabbit stories, although we’d never go so far as to have Frippery or PF in a pie.

On that cheerful note, I’m back to focusing on minutia and the like, as Wolf’s Search moves closer step by step to publication.

Take care!

FF: The Expanded Version

June 21, 2019

Persephone Guards A Precious Edition

Summer is taking me outside more, so I’m reading a bit less. However, I did transplant eighteen volunteer tomato plants, put in four new pepper plants, and plant hollyhocks for later in the season, so all is not lost…

For those of you just discovering this part of my blog, the Friday Fragments lists what I’ve read over the past week.  Most of the time I don’t include details of either short fiction (unless part of a book-length collection) or magazines.

The Fragments are not meant to be a recommendation list.  If you’re interested in a not-at-all-inclusive recommendation list, you can look on my website under Neat Stuff.

Once again, this is not a book review column.  It’s just a list with, maybe, a bit of description or a few opinions tossed in.

I enjoy hearing what you’re reading, by the way…

Recently Completed:

Digger by Ursula Vernon.  Graphic novel.  Smart.  Funny.  Clever.  Loved!

In Progress:

I Sing the Body Electric by Ray Bradbury.  Turns out the edition Elizabeth Leggett loaned me has more stories than mine did, so I’m reading the extras…

The Life of Greece by Will Durant.  Audiobook.  We are now into the Hellenistic period, focusing on Alexandria.

Also:

Copy edit for Wolf’s Search finished.  Dedication and Acknowledgments finished.  E-book files already back to me and I’m proofing yet again.  POD still to be proofed.

Frippery Wigglenose Scamperbutt (And Other Denizens)

June 19, 2019

Newly Hatched Baby Quail and Mom

This last week was particularly good for wildlife spotting in the nature preserve that is our not very large yard.   For the first part of the week, we had a family of newly hatched quail chicks and their parents living in our front yard.  Based on watching her herd the brood, Mama Quail was using the landscaping as a play pen to keep her youngsters from wandering too far.

Frippery Wigglenose Scamperbutt Under Cedar

We also had a baby bunny show up.  He was very visible for several days, and somehow acquired the name Frippery Wigglenose Scampbutt.  The picture doesn’t really provide scale, but I could have easily held him on one hand.

PF and Frippery

It’s unclear whether Frippery and PF—our more or less resident cottontail—are related.  Certainly, PF did not seem unduly enchanted when Frippery came bounding up, wanting to play.  Of course, since Frippery’s idea of a fun game is to run at someone with intent to pounce (something we saw him do to sparrows, doves, and even sharp-beaked Skinny the Thrasher), PF can’t exactly be blamed.

Skinny has continued to show up pretty much daily with a younger thrasher in tow.  Last Sunday, I moved the fence around our front flowerbed so I could transplant some of the volunteer tomato plants that had come up.  (Volunteer plants are a consequence of using grey water on some of our beds.)  I left for a minute to carry some of the transplants around back. When I returned, Skinny and Skinny Junior were actively investigating the changed landscape.

Maybe because they don’t have wings, the rabbits are less delighted by alterations to their surroundings.  When Jim left a coiled hose under the ash tree near the bird block, PF would not go near, not even after one of the white-winged doves had investigated the coils closely, up to and including stepping right into the middle of the largest coil.

PF was not to be fooled.  That was a boa constrictor, for sure!  Of course, if we’d put something interesting to eat on the inside of the coils, he probably would have let appetite overcome his apprehension.  I mean, we’re now pretty sure he’s the one who squeezed into our backyard to have a go at the bean plants.  This would have involved encounters with all sorts of new and potentially dangerous items.

Our annual tribe of toads is now making regular visits to the teeny-tiny pond in our backyard.  Most nights, we fall asleep to the sound of their song.  The lizards are very active and, based on the clipped tails I’ve seen, several have had encounters of the not quite deadly kind.

Even if we do need to occasionally replant something, it’s worth it for the fun we have watching our co-residents…  I guess this just means we’re part of the circle of lunch.

FF: I’m Also Reading

June 14, 2019

Ziggy Wants To Go On An Adventure With Digger

In addition to what’s below, I’m also reading a couple of GURPS gaming supplements because they make interesting, non-stressful, pre-bedtime reading.

For those of you just discovering this part of my blog, the Friday Fragments lists what I’ve read over the past week.  Most of the time I don’t include details of either short fiction (unless part of a book-length collection) or magazines.

The Fragments are not meant to be a recommendation list.  If you’re interested in a not-at-all-inclusive recommendation list, you can look on my website under Neat Stuff.

Once again, this is not a book review column.  It’s just a list with, maybe, a bit of description or a few opinions tossed in.

I enjoy hearing what you’re reading.  You may see it appearing on my reading list down the road.

Recently Completed:

Cart and Cwidder by Diana Wynne Jones. Book One of “The Dalemark Quartet.”  Very strong.  More serious than many of her works, but given that my favorite of hers—Dogsbody—is also serious, I don’t automatically think of her as a “humor” writer.

In Progress:

I Sing the Body Electric by Ray Bradbury.  About two-thirds in.  Limiting myself to one or two stories a day so I can think about them.

Digger by Ursula Vernon.  Graphic novel.  Who wouldn’t love a story about a wombat mining engineer caught up in a dark fantasy adventure?

The Life of Greece by Will Durant.  Audiobook.  We have just finished Plato and are into Aristotle.

Also:

I’m just about done reviewing the copy edited manuscript of Wolf’s Search.  The cover for Wolf’s Search is nearly done and lovely.  I need to write the dedication, acknowledgements, and decide which of the review quotes to include.  More of the little steps that go into a new book…

Tales of Indomitable Spirit

June 12, 2019

My Jim Was The Model For the Fellow On the Right

Last week I read the second issue of DreamForge Magazine.  Full disclosure.  I’ve been involved with DreamForge since it was but a twinkle in the mind of editor Scot Noel.  I’m officially the magazine’s Senior Advisor and Creative Consultant.  This is an unpaid position.

Why am I helping with DreamForge, especially at a time in my career when I have very little money or time?  Because I believe that even when—maybe especially when—the world around us seems a dark and scary place, there’s room for fiction that advocates hope.  Even more than hope, DreamForge seeks stories that advocate striving against the odds, although the dice seem weighted against you.

Issue One (subtitled “Tales of Hope In the Universe”) did an excellent job achieving this goal. Issue Two (subtitled “Tales of Indomitable Spirit”) does even better.  As much as I’d like to talk about individual stories, I’m going to let you discover them on your own.  Instead, I’m going to touch on a few of the elements that make this issue particularly fascinating.

I’ve been surprised at how many potential readers have missed that DreamForge is a full-color magazine.  Every story is illustrated.  Even the short-shorts have a small illustration.  The lay-out is gorgeous, accented by tiny, loving details like individualized dingbats.  (Dingbat is the name for those little doohickeys that signal a pause in the story.)  So “Sid” has tiny wheels, while “Haunting the Present” has little dragons.  The magazine’s paper is heavy, and the print size (three cheers) is large enough to read comfortably.

A few design elements changed between the first and second issue.  Since Scot Noel does a great job of explaining why on page twenty-three, I’m not going to repeat him here.  Suffice to say that some elements of Issue Two’s format are different, but I found the magazine in no way inferior.

“Okay, Jane,” you’re saying, “the magazine is pretty.  I get that.  It’s positive.  I get that, too.  What will I find if I actually buy and read this magazine?”

You’ll get six good, meaty short stories.  You’ll also get eleven shorter stories.  These last are the result of a contest Scot ran challenging writers to offer him their “best futures.”  Among these seventeen stories are hard SF, soft SF, sword and sorcery, contemporary fantasy, and something that just might be a future fairy tale.  One of my personal favorites was told from the point of view of a rhinoceros.

What you won’t get is optimistic fluff or vague utopias.  As Scot says in his submission guidelines, he isn’t looking for utopias or Pollyannaish chirpy stories or even “Tomorrow will be a better day.”  He’s looking for stories about people who, when confronted with big challenges, don’t fold up and moan, but continue to strive.  That striving takes many forms, but what the stories share is someone trying.

You also get a poem.  Then there are several non-fiction pieces by Scot.  One of his essays poses the question “Can We Be Saved?” then shocks by saying in the third sentence: “I hope not!”  Why?  Well, I’ll let Scot tell you.  The essay is on page three.

Scot’s other non-fiction contribution is “How To Write For DreamForge: Part One.”  It’s a fascinating piece, even for non-writers, because it gets into the guts of what Scot’s vision is for good non-dystopian fiction.  It starts with a brief discussion of a short story opening that, on the surface, looks great.  By the time Scot has dissected it, you really have a better understanding of where the weak points are lurking.

Does the magazine have flaws?  Well, of course, but these are mostly because Scot is still learning how to put a magazine together.  The print version doesn’t clearly note that David Weber’s contribution, “A Certain Talent” first appeared in The Williamson Effect, a tribute anthology to the late, great Jack Williamson, so that one of the main characters in Weber’s story is actually one of Jack’s.  I also would have liked to see short bio sketches of the contributors in the print version because, especially when I like a story, I want to know what else the author has written.

DreamForge is currently only available by subscription.  Print, digital, and print/digital combinations are all available.  Even better, DreamForge is working on an agreement with Space &Time magazine that will permit subscribers to opt in for a free digital subscription to Space &Time.

If you subscribe now, you’ll also be set to get your copy of the first ever Firekeeper short story.  “A Question of Truth” is scheduled for Issue Three, illustrated by Hugo award-winning artist, Elizabeth Leggett.  For the foreseeable future, the story will only appear in the magazine!

Imagine.  Engage.  Inspire.  Join us at DreamForge, where we’re connecting Dreamers: Past and Future!