Archive for the ‘My Stories’ Category

As You Wish

May 16, 2018

A Couple Newer Offerings!

This week was filled with all sorts of cool things.  I’m going to share a couple of them.  Then I’m going to answer a request I’ve had from a bunch of people.  So, read on!

To my great pleasure and astonishment, my novel Asphodel received a terrific review from Publisher’s Weekly.   Why astonishment?  Because it’s never easy to have a book reviewed by PW and it’s even tougher when the book doesn’t have the backing of a major publishing house.  So, I’m very excited and because I’m excited, I’m going to share the review.

If you don’t like spoilers, read the first two lines, then the last line.  However, the spoilers aren’t the bad sort that give away resolutions, and one of my delights in this review is that the reviewer clearly “got” the book.

Okay…  Without further delay:

“Longtime fantasist Lindskold’s beguiling puzzle throws an inventive, amnesiac heroine into a magical world with undercurrents of forgotten trauma. An unnamed narrator awakens in a tower without any sense of her identity. Seven windows looking out on a distinct landscapes provide her only entertainment. She crafts companions by tying a pillow into the shape of a rabbit and drawing a sensible, living paper doll named Muriel. With these two friends, she projects herself in disguise into the scenes outside the tower. The trio stops thieves in an urban setting, hunts for a unicorn, rides giant seahorses, and engages in a dangerous battle with nightmarish, winged cherub heads. The narrator’s lack of hunger, thirst, and fatigue allows for endless exploration and the slow discovery of the rules of her powers. The companions’ excursions increase in daring until a visit to an Egypt full of gods and magic sparks the narrator’s desire to recollect her own identity. Searching for her past, however, exposes the bleak truth of her existence in the tower. This curious blend of fanciful vignettes, real danger, and existential mystery wends a twisting, pleasurable way through the powers of imagination.” (Publisher’s Weekly)

If you’re interested in purchasing Asphodel, you can find a full list of links (as well as some other cool stuff related to the novel) here.

On the writing front, I’m now back into Wolf’s Search, the forthcoming seventh Firekeeper novel.  Folks have asked me when it will be released and, for now, my answer is “When it’s ready.”  That said, for a variety of reasons – including the excitement about this book and wanting to get new material in your hands sooner, rather than later – I’m likely to make this book shorter than the previous books in the series.

I also have a couple of short projects I really want to work on before the shine fades off the ideas.  So there’s likely to be a lot of new Jane Lindskold fiction appearing here and there.  Running with the wolves seems to have been good for all aspects of my creative life.

And now for the request…  Several people mentioned having trouble finding the new Firekeeper ebooks, so (with the help of my pack member, Julie Bartel) I searched out links for you and am going to include them sorted by title.  All except the Amazon link will take you to where you can purchase an epub file.  Kindle, of course, requires a mobi file, so that’s what Amazon sells.

Ready?

Through  Wolf’s Eyes: Amazon/Kindle ; Barnes and Noble/Nook ; Kobo ; iTunes ; Google Play

Wolf’s Head, Wolf’s Heart: Amazon/Kindle ; Barnes and Noble/Nook ; Kobo ; iTunes ; Google Play

The Dragon of Despair: Amazon/Kindle ; Barnes and Noble/Nook ; Kobo ; iTunes ; Google Play

Wolf Captured: Amazon/Kindle ; Barnes and Noble/Nook ; Kobo ; iTunes ; Google Play

Wolf Hunting:Amazon/Kindle ; Barnes and Noble/Nook ; Kobo ; iTunes ; Google Play

Wolf’s Blood: Amazon/Kindle ; Barnes and Noble/Nook ; Kobo ; iTunes ; Google Play

So, there you are.  I hope that you will consider purchasing these e-books and/or encouraging your friends to do so.  Please remember that pirated works cost you quite a lot, at least if you enjoy an author’s work.  Why?  Because authors who cannot earn some or part of their living through their work end up unable to write because they’re busy teaching or selling real estate or whatever it takes to keep home and hearth together.

Also consider posting reviews to the various e-bookseller sites.  This encourages the bookseller to promote the work, which in turn brings new readers to the series, which in turn hopefully makes it possible for the author to earn a living.

Now I’m off to see what Blind Seer and Firekeeper have gotten themselves up to…  Good reading to you all!

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New Firekeeper E-Book Editions!

May 9, 2018

New Design!

One of the projects I’ve been working on over these past many months is putting together new editions of the Firekeeper e-books.  Through Wolf’s Eyes; Wolf’s Head, Wolf’s Heart; The Dragon of Despair; Wolf Captured; Wolf Hunting, and Wolf’s Blood are all now available in new editions for both mobi and epub formats from Amazon/Kindle; Nook; Kobo; i-Tunes, and GooglePlay.

The cover art is based on the classic paintings by Julie Bell, and feature stylish, updated cover design.  The interior design is also updated, including classy new chapter headings.

Each volume contains a short essay providing a peek at my behind-the-scenes choices as I wrote the Firekeeper Saga.   Otherwise, changes to the text have been restricted to the most minor.

At this point, I don’t plan to produce new print editions, but most of the novels remain available in hardcover through my website bookstore.

An advantage of putting these new e-book editions together was that the task provided me with an opportunity to re-saturate myself in the Firekeeper universe, because I went over each book many times.   It was a lot of fun to see how much Firekeeper and her associates changed in the course of the series.  What I liked most of all was how those changes made them truer to themselves, rather than strangers to the people I started falling in love with in Through Wolf’s Eyes.

My re-immersion in the Firekeeper universe has, in turn, made me very eager to return to writing Wolf’s Search – the forthcoming seventh Firekeeper novel.   I’ll talk more about that novel when I’m closer to being done, since I’ve never been very comfortable talking about a work in process.  All I’ll say at this point is that Wolf’s Search takes place within a year of the events in Wolf’s Blood, and that Firekeeper and Blind Seer are two of the main characters.  Anything else is between me and the muse.

Finally, for those of you who have been asking for new e-book editions of my other Tor novels, be assured that these will be forthcoming.  However, I need a break from being in editorial mode.  As I’ve noted elsewhere, it can really get in the way of writing.

What Happened Next

April 11, 2018

To Quail Or Not To Quail?

Last week I told you about how Jim told recounted a dream he’d had, and how what he told me generated an idea for a short story.  Here’s what happened next.

After Jim told me about his dream, I scribbled a few pages.  Then, when I had spare time, I did research to round out my idea.   As soon as I could, I started writing, beginning with typing up what I’d written longhand.  It looked good.  It even looked great, but it also was getting long and the dramatic climax that had been my initial inspiration was nowhere in sight.

When I had written over 4,000 words (that’s sixteen pages, give or take) and the story was still a long way from completed, I had a sudden, horrible realization.  What I was setting up would only work if I turned my initial concept into a novel.  I’d thought my research would tighten down my options.  Instead, it had given me too many cool ideas.

As you know, I have nothing against writing novels.  However, I really didn’t think that the initial vivid image I’d garnered from Jim’s dream would be served by being an element in a novel.  Instead, it would be buried under a lot of other material.  It might even be squashed flat.

Reluctantly, I realized that if I were to serve my initial inspiration, I wouldn’t just need to re-write and tighten.  I would need to start over entirely.

Lots of writers quail at the idea of starting over.  They don’t want to “waste” what they’ve already written.  I’m not immune to that fear but, as I paced around my yard, I realized that the creative work I’d done to that point wasn’t wasted.  Some of the cool stuff I’d found in my research would certainly be useful later.  The fictional New Mexico mining town in which I was going to set the story was considerably more well defined.

So, on Friday, I put aside all the other jobs on my list and began all over again.  I wrote through Friday, although I did need to take a break to attend a meeting.  By close of day, I had replaced my initial 4,000 words, and was on my way toward the final scenes.

On Saturday, I’d hoped to go to a coin show with Jim and our friend, Michael Wester, but I cancelled so I could keep writing.  When Jim and Michael came back from the show, I stopped to have a sandwich with them, then I returned to writing.  By late afternoon, I had a rough draft with a beginning, a middle, and an end.

I also had assurance as to whether or not I’d written a better story, but at least I hadn’t let my initial inspiration become buried under too many words and too complex a plot.   I printed what I’d written, set it aside to mellow, and gave myself Sunday off.  Monday would be soon enough to give the story another look.

As of this writing, I’m still in the polishing and refining stage.  I’m only sure of one thing.  I’m glad I didn’t quail at the challenge of starting over again.  Sometimes, that’s the only thing to do if you want to write the best story possible.

Dreams Into Stories

April 4, 2018

Maybe Kel’s Writing

Jim and I often tell each other about our dreams.  One of the nice things about living with him is that, for the first time in my life, I share a bed with someone who dreams nearly as vividly as I do.  Jim doesn’t remember his dreams as often as I do or in as much detail but, when he does, they’re worth hearing about.

This past weekend, Jim mentioned a particularly vivid dream to me.  Even as he was telling me, I thought “This would make an interesting element in a story.”  No.  I didn’t go and write myself a little note.  I do that sometimes, but not often.  To be honest, I react to a list of story prompts the way I do to homework assignments.  I feel I’m somehow falling short if I don’t use them all.

Yes.  I know that’s ridiculous, but that’s the way my brain works.

Anyhow, I enjoyed Jim’s tale, then went on with my morning.  My mom was visiting.  When she came out to chat over coffee, I forgot entirely about Jim’s dream.  Later, when Mom needed some down time, I parked myself on the sofa to read.  The last thing I expected was for a story to start talking to me.

When it did, I grabbed a pen and some paper.  By the time Mom came out to rejoin us, I’d covered about four pages with scribbles.  The rest of the weekend, whenever I had a moment, I did some research to fill in details.

I’ve had other stories begin with dreams.  One of these, “Behind the Curtain of Flowers,” is included in my short story collection, Curiosities.  I’ve used elements from dreams in other short stories and even novels.  Pearl and Albert, two of the main characters in the “Breaking the Wall” novels (beginning with Thirteen Orphans), first introduced themselves to me in a dream.

In fact, now that I think about it, my earliest “stories” began with telling my dreams to my sister, Ann, who would listen with drowsy interest – and maybe a little doubt as to whether I was making some of it up.  Maybe I was.  Dreams do so often suffer from continuity problems!

I haven’t quite finished writing the story I started this weekend.  If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to take advantage of my inspiration flowing fast and hot, and get back to writing!

Collaborating With Myself

March 28, 2018

Worlds I’ve Made My Own

As those of you who read my Friday Fragments know, over the last few months, I’ve been re-reading the entire Firekeeper saga.  One reason is because I’m grooming the books for a new release as high quality e-books, each of which will include an original, never before published essay about some aspect of the series.

The other reason I’m doing this re-read is that I’m re-familiarizing myself with Firekeeper and her world.  The first book in the series, Through Wolf’s Eyes, was published in 2001.  It was written about two years before.  The sixth (and at that point final) novel in the series, Wolf’s Blood, was published in 2007 and, again, was completed close to a year before.

Now that I’m writing Wolf’s Search, I want to make certain I have all the little details of the series fresh in my mind.  Of course I remember the major elements, but these books take place in a rich and multi-faceted world, full of complex cultures and even more complicated people.  I have a good memory, but it’s not perfect.  Then, too, I’ve thought a lot about those characters and what might have happened to them in the years since I turned in Wolf’s Blood.  I needed to separate out my speculations from what actually made it onto the page.

As I was working my way through Wolf’s Blood last week, scribbling down small notes here and there whenever I came upon an interesting tidbit, I realized that the process was very similar to what I do before writing a story set in another writer’s universe.

I’ve done several of these.  Probably the best known of my collaborations are those I’ve done with my buddy David Weber, set in his Honorverse.  I’ve written two novels with him (Fire Season and Treecat Wars), as well as contributing  three novellas and a yet unpublished short story to Honorverse anthologies.  I’ve written a Berserker short story with Fred Saberhagen.  Stories set in another author’s universe include a couple of stories for S.M. Stirling (one “Draka”; one “Emberverse”), a story for the Golden Reflections anthology (set in the universe of Fred Saberhagens’s Mask of the Sun), a short story “Child of the Night” in a Jack Williamson tribute anthology, and  a story set in Larry Niven’s “Man-Kzin War” series.

And, of course, there are Donnerjack and Lord Demon, the two novels I completed posthumously for my much beloved Roger Zelazny.

For each of these pieces, no matter how long or how short, I immersed myself in the original writer’s prose and, if appropriate, specific universe.  When I do this, I’m not just looking for information, I’m looking for elements of style, tone, and pacing.  I want the reader to feel they’re stepping into that particular universe, not a pale imitation.  Sure, my take will be a bit different from the original author’s, but I want this to be the difference between where in the room you’re standing, not a completely different house.

This week I realized that, as I am writing Wolf’s Search, I’m collaborating with my past self – the Jane Lindskold who lived between 1999 and 2007, a woman who during that time spent at least part of that year immersed in the world of Firekeeper and her associates.  Collaborating with myself is sort of neat.  It’s also more than a little weird.

My modern self definitely wants to bring what I’ve learned in the years since 2007 to Wolf’s Search.  After all, I’ve written eight or nine other novels, as well as many short stories.  If I didn’t learn anything in doing that, then I’ve just been spinning my wheels, and I’m not that sort of person.  At the same time, the Firekeeper Saga has its own voice, and I want that voice to be present and familiar, even though this is going to be a new story.

Now that I’ve finished my re-read, I’ll be writing more quickly.  Wolf’s Search is already becoming a deeper, more complex story than I had originally anticipated.  But that is something to talk about later…

Fear of the Wrong Thing

February 28, 2018

This past week, I was asked a couple of thoughtful questions on my Facebook page.  I’m answering them here, where I have the leisure to provide more than a “sound bite” response.

Me, Brenda Drake, and Gabi Stevens

First though a bit of news!

To celebrate the release of Asphodel, I took part in Marshal Zeringue’s Campaign for the American Reader.  In the Page 69 Test, we dive inside Asphodel to answer the question: “If you were in a bookstore and randomly opened to page sixty-nine, would you be hooked?”  For Writer’s Read, I talk about some of what I’ve been reading.  Even if you regularly read my Friday Fragments, you’ll find something new here.

The Page 69 Test: Asphodel

Writers Read: Jane Lindskold

Now to those questions (which I tightened up a bit here):

Tish Kemper asked: “How do you move past the fear of writing the wrong thing? I have this story inside me, and I can’t really start to write because each time I try the fear of ‘the wrong thing’ keeps me going back and dismantling everything.”

Jen Keats added: “I always worry what I write isn’t going to be ‘good enough.’ I see all these authors making intricate worlds and characters…  Does that all happen the first time around or is there a ton of editing and research etc. Does one have to use a thesaurus/dictionary to get it that good, or is it just that I’m not a very good writer?”

The simple answer, which someone actually was kind enough to post to my Facebook page by way of encouragement, boils down to: “Just write.  You can polish later.”

I agree with that, but I’d like to go into some of the issues more deeply.

Tish says “I have this story inside me.”  That’s good.  That’s great.  The first question to ask yourself is “Who is my intended audience for this story?”

This past weekend, when I did a book event at Page One Books, one of the questions we were asked was “Why did you start writing?”  Both Gabi Stevens and I had the same answer.  We started writing to create the stories we wanted to read, but couldn’t quite find.  For both of us, then, our first audience is always ourselves.  This is one reason I write my first draft rough and without worrying too much about the finer points.  I’m finding out what the story is.

If, on one level, you’re just writing the story because it’s inside you and you’d like to see it, then there is no way you can tell it wrong.  Writing is always communication, but maybe this story is you talking to yourself, telling that fairy tale you always wanted to read or putting into firmer shape some of your best daydreams.  Or maybe you’re looking for a way through some personal issue.

If you’re looking to share that story with a larger audience, then you’ve set yourself a tougher challenge.  Remember, writing is communication.    Let’s say you’ve written that rough first draft just for you.  Now you think it’s a story you might want to share with other people.  At this point, your task is to make sure the language says what you want it to say.

Here’s where Jen’s question fits in.  She asked: “Does that all happen the first time around or is there a ton of editing and research etc. Does one have to use a thesaurus/dictionary to get it that good, or is it just that I’m not a very good writer?”

My answer is: No.  It doesn’t happen the first time around.  It doesn’t even happen the first book around.  Most writers have a bunch of short stories or a novel or two that they wrote as they were learning their craft.  Sometimes they come back and use what they learned along the way to make that early effort better.  That’s what I did with my novel The Pipes of Orpheus.  So don’t despair if your first effort isn’t as good as you want it to be.   Put it aside and come back later.

And, no, you don’t need to use a thesaurus or dictionary.  In fact, if you are repeatedly using either of these tools, you’re just being artificial.

Does this mean you don’t need a wide vocabulary or knowledge of grammar?  Absolutely not!  You need both.  But as far as I can tell, writing is the only craft where people think they can skip the basics and move right onto professional quality work.  Sorry, but just as if you wanted to be a painter, you’d need to learn something about brush strokes and blending colors and perspective, so if you want to write professionally, you’re going to need to learn the skills.

There’s no quick way around this.

Because writing is communication, at some point in the process, you’re going to need to share the story with someone else.  Some people join writers’ groups.  Some people have “beta readers.”  (The assumption is that the writer is the “alpha” reader.)  When I wrote Asphodel, I not only asked my usual “beta readers” to take a look at it, I deliberately asked some people who I wasn’t sure would get into the story to take a look.  The fact that a widely varied set of readers found something to like in Asphodel gave me confidence that I had communicated my vision.

This Wandering is getting long, so let me add that my book Wanderings on Writing contains a bunch of essays about writing.  These range from basics, such as narrative hooks and research strategies, up to and including more global themes such as heroes and antiheroes or world-building.  The essays were adapted from my Wednesday Wanderings.  If you poke around the site archive, you can find some of the same material.

I hope these answers will help not only Tish and Jen, but other would-be writers as well.  Any other questions?

Looking From the Inside Out

February 21, 2018

News Flash! February 24, 2018, 4:00 pm: Fantasy Fiction Spectacular at Page One.  I’ll be signing my latest, Asphodel, along with authors Brenda Drake and Gabi Stevens.  For more details go to www.page1book.com.

The last week or so, I’ve been reviewing what I have written on Wolf’s Search, the forthcoming seventh Firekeeper novel.

What’s in a Description?

Side Note:  There is no set release date for Wolf’s Search.  The novel will come out when I’m finished, and it’s as good as I can make it.  Because of how I write, I can’t tell you what it’s going to be about. All I can do is reassure you that this isn’t going to be one of those new novels in a series that jumps to the next generation. Okay?

One of the things I’ve been doing as I review is fill out characters’ physical descriptions.

“What?” you say “You mean you don’t work those out in advance?”

Not always.  Not usually, even.  Unless what a character looks like is important to some element of the plot, I often wait to get to know the characters before worrying about what they look like.  Adara in Artemis Awakening and Artemis Invaded is a good example of a character whose physical description I needed to work out in advance, both because of how it would influence Griffin’s first reaction to her, then because of her unusual genetic background.

In my “Breaking the Wall” novels (beginning with Thirteen Orphans) all the main characters have at least one Chinese ancestor.  How strongly the Chinese physical traits show was something I carefully worked out, basing it on how old the character was (therefore, how many generations closer to their Chinese ancestor), the ethnic background of their other forbearers, and a few other factors.  Even in the same family, different combinations come out, so I had some leeway.

I know that lots of writers “cast” their characters using movie and television actors.  Possibly because I don’t watch a lot of television or movies, this doesn’t work for me.  The closest I come is paging through magazines, focusing especially on advertisements.

Honestly, though, I don’t think the fact that I don’t watch much in the way of movies or television is why I don’t use visual aides to design my characters.  I think it’s because I write my characters from the inside out.  That means how they look isn’t very important.  Who they are is what is important.  From there, what elements of their physical description best show who they are tend to naturally come into focus.

Firekeeper is a good example.  When you think about it, she’s incredibly ordinary.  Average height.  Average build.  Brown hair, slightly curly.  Dark brown eyes.  What’s interesting are the things her life has done to her, especially the scars.  Her eyes draw a lot of attention, too.  People tend to see them as darker than they actually are.  For me, this is a result of her inhuman way of looking.  Unless it’s necessary for her to focus down tightly, Firekeeper keeps a wide focus, alert as any wild animal to changes in her environment.  Her body language is also subtly “wrong,” again a result of her upbringing among wolves.

In my newly-published novel, Asphodel, I took this tendency to not describe my characters to a new extreme.  The narrator (I can’t give you her name without a spoiler) not only doesn’t know what she looks like, she’s afraid to find out.  In Asphodel, characters change appearances repeatedly, but you – and they – always know who they are.

There are definitely times when a character’s physical appearan

ce plays into the story.  Blind Seer will always be a bit of an outlier because blue eyes are rare among wolves.  Sometimes a character’s physical description isn’t an issue at the time the character is introduced, but becomes so later on.  Derian Carter is considered relatively ordinary in the first three Firekeeper books, but in book four (Wolf Captured), his red hair causes him to really stand out.  He’s also tall and used to being so, so when he encounters people much taller than him, he’s always startled.

Remembering things like that is part of the fun.  And it’s definitely one of the reasons that I enjoy writing physical descriptions after I get to know the characters, rather than in advance.

New Bookcase!

January 31, 2018

I want to thank those of you who have written to express enthusiasm about my new novel, Asphodel.  Some of you have been very eloquent, and I appreciate your taking the time to share your delight. Now the tough part, for me.  I’d like to ask for you to please share your reactions with people you think might also like Asphodel.  Word of mouth is the best publicity.  These days you can “talk” to a lot more people by leaving reviews on bookseller websites.   It only takes a short time and may help sales.

Jim’s Artistry

An added bonus is that you can also encourage the author!

Speaking of books…

One of the extremely cool things Jim did over his extended holiday break was build us a new bookcase for our office.  (He also built us a new laundry hamper that doubles as a cat perch and scratching post.)

When we had our office built onto our house some dozen or so years ago, we also purchased matching office desks.  These came “to be assembled,” except apparently the shippers didn’t think that the tops arriving intact was a requirement.  Four tops were delivered before we received two that didn’t have a crushed side along one edge.

After the desks were assembled, we had two spare desktops.  Jim was prepared to cut them up and put them in the trash, when I had the brainstorm that if we put legs between them, they’d actually make a pretty classy coffee table that could go in front of the picture window.  Jim did this and we were very happy.

But a dozen years of cats running and sliding, strong sunlight, the occasional open window, and one mystery spill, made the once spiffy coffee table look a bit shabby.  And for some reason we really needed more room for books.

Once again, my problem solving abilities and Jim’s gift for making dreams into reality came into play.   In front of the large window in our living room, we have a rough pine box.  This box serves many purposes.  It stores board games.  It’s a low table.  It’s a backrest for people who sit on the floor.  And, most importantly, at least according to our four feline co-residents, it is the perfect place to sit and watch birds.

We humans appreciate that the rough wood doesn’t show damage from cat claws, or from the occasional splash of rain.  Therefore, when Jim and I started considering what we’d like to use to replace the office coffee table, we rejected many options as too delicate.  Glass-topped  furniture didn’t appeal, because that’s just something else that needs to be kept free from paw prints and dust.

Eventually, Jim decided that he could build us a bookcase.  He found some rough finished wood intended for accents on walls or decks.  A great advantage of this was that it was already stained and grooved so that pieces would fit tightly together, making a beautiful top.  He found molding with a leaf and vine pattern for the top and front edges.  He bought lumber and nails. Then he set to work.

When Jim was done building, he painted everything but the top matte black, so that the new bookcase coordinated with our desks, which have light colored wooden tops and black sides.  Magnificent!

In case you wonder, the books on the shelves are part of our working library of history, archeology, and linguistics.  The ornaments are, starting at the top left: a kaleidoscope that was a gift from our friends Scot and Jane Noel, because they really liked my novel, Child of a Rainless Year; next a blue and silver fabric dragon I bought at my first ever SF con – Lunacon in New York; then a Japanese bento box I use to store the parts for small craft projects in process.   On the right is a black and white cat stuffy that, except for the red chiles on its fur and whiskers, is a ringer for our cat, Kwahe’e.  This cat was a gift from Sharon and David Weber on one of their visits to New Mexico.  Finally, on the bottom is a faux bronze statuette of wild horses that was a gift from Jim’s parents.

Best of all, the new bookcase is cat-approved.  They’re up and down from it all day, and state categorically that they’re the finest ornaments of all.

Asphodel: My Latest Novel!

January 24, 2018

In these Wanderings, I’ve mentioned Asphodel on and off as I’ve been writing it.  Now Asphodel is available as a trade paperback.  Prefer e-books?  You can also find Asphodel on Kindle, Nook, i-Tunes , GooglePlay, and Kobo.

Asphodel!

 Now that Asphodel has been released, I feel more comfortable talking about it.  Don’t worry.  There won’t be any spoilers.

First, here’s the jacket copy:

Prison or Refuge?

Nameless in a doorless tower graced with seven windows, she is imprisoned.  Who is her jailer?  What is her crime?

After she discovers the secret of the seven windows, the nameless one, accompanied by two impossible companions, sets forth on fantastical journeys of exploration.  But, for the nameless one, learning her name may not be a welcome revelation, and the identity of her jailer will rock the foundations of a tower that has come to be as much refuge as prison.

From various comments, I’ve gathered that some people think that Asphodel belongs to one of my existing series.   That isn’t the case.  It’s a stand-alone novel, and likely to remain so.

Asphodel had an interesting starting point.  The only writers’ group I belong to is called First Fridays.  First Fridays was founded by Tony Hillerman, Norm Zollinger, Madge Harrah, and several other New Mexico authors to be a place where professional writers could meet up and talk shop.  Its only rules are that First  Fridays has no officers, no agenda, and that all members must be professionally published.

These days the format of the meeting is a sort of round table, where everybody present takes a few minutes to talk about what they’re doing.  One day, after about half the group had talked – mostly about business – Paula A. Paul said: “Isn’t anyone writing?”

Her words hit me between the eyes.  I realized that, since I’d finished my last project, many weeks had gone by without me writing any fiction.  Non-fiction, certainly.  But no fiction.  Business considerations seemed to take all my time.  Worse, whenever I started thinking about writing something, all that business stuff started chattering in my head.  The buzzwords of the moment.  The latest argument on social media.

I realized I didn’t really like the inside of my own head very much.

Paula’s words continued to haunt me.  After a few days, I said to Jim, “I’ve got to start writing again.  I don’t know what and I don’t want to know what.  But I want to write the way I used to write, just because I love it.”

And Jim, bless him, said, “Go for it.”

To keep myself from falling into old patterns, I divorced myself from my computer.  Instead, I took out an address book that had been part of a set my sister-in-law, Beth, had given me one year for Christmas.  I pulled out a box of colored pens, sat down at the kitchen table, and promised myself one hour a day just to write.

The first word I wrote was “Asphodel.”  The story flowed from that point.  Whenever I found myself thinking too hard, I’d pull out my set of Story Cubes, grab a few at random, throw them down, and then work whatever hit me into the story.  I changed color pens a whim.  When I started, I thought I’d only be writing a short story but, when I finished the address book, I found there was more story there.  I grabbed a notebook in which I keep track of birthdays and started writing on all the blank pages.  When I was done with that, I found another partially-used blank book.  Finally, I ended up with a spiral notebook.

When I finally wrote “The End” I found myself curious as to how much I’d written.  I started typing and discovered that I had something like 58,000 words – too long for most short fiction markets and, anyhow, the story defied most market categories.

Jim was curious about what had been keeping me so absorbed all those weeks, so I printed him a copy.  When he started coming home and telling me about where he was in the story, what he was wondering about, I began to wonder if I’d accidentally written something that was coherent to someone other than myself.  As a test, I asked a couple of friends I could trust to be brutal with me if they’d read it.  They both did, both liked it and both said they hadn’t wanted it to end.

I balked at writing more for no reason other than to write more.  But I promised to keep myself open to the idea that there was more story.  And a few weeks later, the characters started talking in my head, picking up as if we’d never stopped.  I wrote more, gave the manuscript to a few more friends – deliberately picking some who I thought would hate it.  No one did.

As a final test, I read the whole manuscript aloud in twenty-minute intervals to my gaming group.  Not only did they seem taken with the tale, they didn’t have any trouble remembering what was going on, even though a week, sometimes more, would have gone by between readings.

So, I decided that I wanted to share the story with a larger audience.  My agent offered to shop the manuscript around, but I was so closely immersed with the tale by now that self-publishing seemed the best option.  Rowan Derrick (who as one of my gamers was familiar with the story) agreed to do the cover, taking on my request to put together a photo mosaic that would be both surreal and firmly anchored in the material of the novel.

And now, here it is…  My paper ship built from scraps and colored ink.  I hope you will climb aboard and take the trip – discover for yourself the secret meaning of Asphodel.

Shining Legacy

December 13, 2017

On Saturday, Jim and I drove up to Santa Fe to have dinner at the invitation of Warren Lapine who, along with Trent Zelazny, co-edited the tribute anthology to Roger Zelazny, Shadows and Reflections.  Jim and I arrived early enough to walk around the plaza and enjoy the glittering lights.  As we were turning to head toward the restaurant, we encountered our dear friends, Steve (S.M.) and Jan Stirling, and learned they were going our way.

The Santa Fe Plaza

Several other contributors to the anthology were part of Warren’s dinner party.  These included  Trent Zelazny, Gerry Hausman (and his wife, Lorry), and Shannon Zelazny.  Rounding out the festive board were Warren’s wife (and frequent partner in things editorial), Angela Kessler, and the aforementioned bonus guests: Steve and Jan Stirling.

We met at the San Francisco Street Bar and Grill, which, in an earlier incarnation, was a place that Roger very much enjoyed, so this seemed like a nicely appropriate setting.

Chat was lively and general, one of those lovely occasions where everyone – even people who hadn’t met before – quickly arrived at the conclusion that we were all friends.

A few words about the Shadows and Reflections anthology, for those of you who are curious.  It includes both fiction and non-fiction.  The introduction by George R.R. Martin is a reprint of a piece he wrote in 2009.  The final piece, by Shannon Zelazny, who was in high school when her father died, is probably my favorite bit in the entire book.  Of all the many biographical remembrances of Roger that I have read, Shannon’s comes closest to capturing the man I knew, loved, and lived with.

There’s also a little known short story by Roger, “There Shall Be No Moon!”

The other fiction draws on a wide variety of Roger’s universes, from the science fiction Isle of the Dead (Steve Brust’s “Playing God”) to the sword and sorcery Jack of Shadows (Lawrence Watt-Evans’ “The Lady of Shadow Guard”).  Gerry Hausman (who co-wrote the novel Wilderness with Roger) contributed “Nights in the Garden of Blue Harbor,” based on a story idea Roger gave him.  One thing that’s nice about the collection is that both Roger’s short and long fiction are represented as sources of inspiration.

My own piece, “The Headless Flute Player” is set in the same universe as Lord Demon, one of the two novels that, at Roger’s request, I completed for him after his death.  It’s a prequel to the novel, and incorporates a few ideas Roger casually mentioned that someday he’d like to use in a story.

Full disclosure.  I haven’t read the entire anthology yet, so I can’t tell you much about the stories.  What I hope is that this anthology inspires readers to go back and read the original works that have inspired such devotion and enthusiasm over twenty years after their author’s death – and in many cases, several decades after they were originally written.

One wonderful thing about Roger’s writing is how well it has held up to the test of time and how it can still stir the heart and imagination.  Not a bad legacy at all…