Archive for the ‘My Stories’ Category

An Open Letter to My Gamers

May 13, 2020

My Current Game Noteboook and the Proof

Months and months ago, when I wrote the Acknowledgements to Wolf’s Soul, the sequel to last July’s Wolf’s Search, which finally went live last week—you can read more about it here—I knew exactly what I was going to do when I got the first proof copy.

I was going to hand it to one of my current gaming group (maybe we’d roll dice to see who) and ask that person to read the first several paragraphs of the Acknowledgments aloud.

But, by the time the proof came out, the Covid-19 shutdown had begun and we were no longer meeting.  I hoped that by the time the book was available for purchase, we’d be meeting in person again, but that hasn’t happened.

So, I’m going to share this will them and with all of you.  Ready?

First of all, there’s a very special group I want to thank. Without them, Wolf’s Soul would have taken a lot longer to be finished.  These are the members of my current gaming group: Rowan Derrick, Melissa Jackson, Cale Mims, Dominique Price, and my husband, Jim Moore.

There was a point when, overwhelmed by too many projects unexpectedly coming to a head at one time, I realized I was burning out.  Something had to go. Reluctantly, I realized that I was going to need to give up running our weekly game.  I was crushed, because gaming may be the single activity that helps me recharge my creativity.

What can I say?  I’m a storyteller.  Gaming reminds me that stories are fun, not just my job.

My gamers are all seriously busy people, with high-end, stressful jobs.  I figured they’d be glad for an excuse to reclaim their Sunday evenings.  Instead, they insisted we keep meeting.  Rowan, despite having just started a new job, took over as gamemaster.  I stepped to the sidelines as one of the players.  As I started working through the backlog that was weighing me down, burnout ebbed and writing Wolf’s Soul became fun again, rather than a chore.

There’s a sequel to this…

As I said, when the Covid-19 shutdown hit, we all agreed to minimize vectors and stop meeting in person.  Jim and I knew that while, for us, the shutdown meant becoming more or less hermits, our gamers were going to all be working from home and/or the office, so their stress level and exhaustion levels would not be at all reduced.  In fact, we were resigned to the fact that, after many years, this might be the end of this particular group…  Life does that sort of thing.

Then, one day, Dominique e-mailed: “Okay! We miss you guys! Do you want to try roleplaying over Zoom?”

And so we started up over Zoom.  As the week before our first Zoom game, I kept finding myself thinking “We’re gaming this weekend.  I wonder what I should bake?” only to come up short and realize that, while we might be gaming, we wouldn’t be having our usual snack potluck.  I still feel funny when the coffee finishes brewing and I can’t share or put on water for tea for the non-coffee drinkers.

But gaming again has been fun.

It’s probably a coincidence but, soon after we started gaming again, my imagination relaxed and my writing on my current project, the first of the new Star Kingdom novels I’m collaborating on with David Weber, really picked up.

So, thank you, Cale, Dominique, Melissa, and Rowan—and, of course, Jim.

Wherever the future takes us, I’ll remember our games with special fondness forever more!

Wolf’s Soul Live On All Sites!!

May 9, 2020

Wolf’s Soul Runs Through the Amazon!

Wolf’s Soul, the eighth book in the Firekeeper Saga, is finally live on Amazon.  The pages for the two versions may not yet been merged on all sites, here are links to the Kindle (mobi) e-book and the trade paperback.

Wolf’s Soul is also available as an e-book from Barnes and Noble, Google Play, i-Tunes, and Kobo.

The cover art is based on Julie Bell’s wonderful piece, “Three Hungry Wolves,” which you can acquire as a print from her website.

Wolf’s Soul  is a close-upon-the-heels sequel to last July’s Wolf’s Search and, as such, requires familiarity with the events in Wolf’s Search to be best enjoyed.

That said, Wolf’s Search can be delved into without a review of—or even great familiarity with—the previous six books in the Firekeeper Saga.  If you haven’t yet read Wolf’s Search, you can learn a little about it here.

If you’d like more information about Wolf’s Soul, here’s a link to this week’s WW where I provided a few more details.

Wolf’s Soul Lives!

May 6, 2020

Wolf’s Soul!

Wolf’s Soul, the eighth book in the Firekeeper Saga, is now available from the following on-line booksellers: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Google Play, i-Tunes, and Kobo.  For those of you who prefer physical books, Wolf’s Soul is available as a trade paperback from Amazon.  The cover art is based on Julie Bell’s wonderful piece, “Three Hungry Wolves,” which you can acquire as a print from her website.

Wolf’s Soul  is a close-upon-the-heels sequel to last July’s Wolf’s Search and, as such, requires familiarity with the events in Wolf’s Search to be best enjoyed.

That said, Wolf’s Search can be delved into without a review of—or even great familiarity with—the previous six books in the Firekeeper Saga.  If you haven’t yet read Wolf’s Search, you can learn a little about it here.

If you don’t want spoilers for Wolf’s Search, skip the italicized portion.   Otherwise, read on for the cover blurb to Wolf’s Soul:

Firekeeper has always believed that her heart is a wolf’s heart.

Now the time has come for her to prove it.

Blind Seer’s search for a teacher of the magical arts brought him and Firekeeper to Rhinadei, a land rich in magical lore, but intolerant of those who would rebel against its core precepts.  Now, eager to aid Wythcombe, his new teacher, Blind Seer agrees to lend his keen senses to the hunt for Kabot—Wythcombe’s childhood rival and leader of a band of fanatical blood mages.

In this hunt, Firekeeper runs as ever at Blind Seer’s side.  Rounding out their pack are Laria and Ranz, two young humans with potent magical gifts of their own; Farborn, a yarimaimalom falcon; Wythcombe himself, and the ever enigmatic Meddler.

Yet, despite the versatility of this pack, Kabot’s blood mages miraculously elude them, leaving behind the tantalizing scent of more power than they should possess.  Suspicion builds that Kabot has acquired a new ally: an ally who may be one of their own pack turned traitor.

To anticipate a frequently asked question: Yes.  I will eventually be selling copies (signed and personalized, if you wish) of the physical book  through my website bookshop.  As soon as I have my copies and have set up the order form, I’ll let you know.   In the meantime, you can check my bookshop for copies of other of my works, many of which are available as first edition hard covers.

Wolf’s Search and Wolf’s Soul will be the final Firekeeper Saga books for some time to come, so there’s no reason to wait.  Join Firekeeper and Blind Seer, as they encounter lands familiar and unfamiliar, hot on the trail of that which may make their oldest dream come true.

FF: Peeking Out

April 24, 2020

Mei-Ling Peeks

This week I’ve been writing more, reading less, but I’m still immersed in story, from which vantage I peek out at the world.

For those of you unfamiliar with this column, 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.

Recently Completed:

Tied Up in Tinsel by Ngaio Marsh.  Audiobook.  Once again Alleyne’s name is pronounced “Al-ay-n”) throughout.  It’s pronounced “Allen.”   Oddly enough, Marsh doesn’t mentions how his name is pronounced in some books, but in some she does.   If I was wearing my English prof hat, I’d be tempted to read the series in order and see if there is a pattern.

But I think I’ll write about the denizens of the planet Sphinx instead.

DreamForge, Issue Five.  Coincidentally, many of the stories deal with parallel worlds, but it works.

In Progress:

Last Ditch by Ngaio Marsh.  Audiobook.  Largely from the POV of Alleyne’s now-grown son.

David Bowie: The Oral History compiled by Dylan Jones.  The big question of whether Let’s Dance was selling out or not.  Sometimes Bowie is taken way to seriously.  This is the man whose first major single was “The Laughing Gnome.”

Also:

Archeology magazine.

Thyme For Irony

April 22, 2020

Pink Chintz Thyme

I’ve had a twist in my stay-at-home, work-from-home, whatever you want to call it, lifestyle.  Before I tell you about that, an update.

The cover for Wolf’s Soul,  the sequel to Wolf’s Search, is still not right, so I’ve ordered Proof Three.  So I don’t bore the folks who tuned in last week, here’s a link to a mysterious masked writer and a copy of Proof One.

I’m thinking about using the proofs as one-of-a-kind giveaways.  Does that sound interesting?

(If you’re really eager, sign up for my mailing list, because at least one giveaway is going to be exclusively offered there.  There’s a link on my website.)

So, now for the twist….

I’ve been very careful about self-isolation because I have allergy-related asthma.  For five days of the week, not much changed.  My office is in my home.  I work for myself.  Jim is retired and took over most of the errands about a year ago.

Weekends changed, absolutely.  That’s when Jim and I would go out, see friends, host our gaming group.  Going anywhere or having guests ended for me over a month ago.

This year, maybe because of our wet (for us) winter, allergens are at a high level.  So despite my being careful, my asthma ramped up.  About two weeks ago, I had to add a medication that has taken about half my voice.  The half that remains sounds as if I’ve swallowed a rusty scrubbing pad.

Okay.  Maybe not that bad.  Well, not all the time.  However, if I talk for more than a few sentences, my throat gets tight.  So here I am, now properly self-isolated because I can’t even take a phone call without scaring the person on the other end.

But I’ll manage.

Two more weeks to go on the meds (which are helping a lot) and I should be back to what passes for normal.  Meantime, our gaming group is now experimenting with meeting on-line via Zoom.  When we did, I kept the hot drinks on tap and managed all right but, later, my throat called me a few choice names.

So there you have it.

Oh, the picture?  That’s pink chintz creeping thyme.  To me creeping thyme is a great plant to illustrate irony because—ironically—it doesn’t much mind being stepped on.

Or maybe I should think of it as a thyme of fortitude.  Yeah, I like that!

Okay, I’m off to romp with the treecats.  The yet untitled Star Kingdom novel 4 (in collaboration with David Weber) is taking shape and I want to see what happens next.  Later!

Proof of Wolf’s Soul

April 15, 2020

Who Is That Masked Writer?

I’ve discovered a great additional advantage to masks…  Read on to find out what.

But first, the first proof copy of Wolf’s Soul arrived last week.  This is the immediate sequel to last July’s Wolf’s Search.  The cover art is adapted from “Three Hungry Wolves” by Julie Bell.  You can read the cover blurb here.

Mostly, I was happy with how the book came out.  However, because of issues with how the cover was aligned, we’re taking it back to press.  Therefore, it will be a few more weeks before the novel is ready for official release.  Then you’ll be able to get it as an e-book from Amazon, Barnes and Noble (Nook), Kobo, i-tunes, and GooglePlay.  The trade paperback will be available from Amazon.

Stay tuned for further updates.  If you don’t want to risk missing any, you can sign up for my mailing list at my website: www.janelindskold.com.

As to masks…  As many of you know, I’m rather camera shy.  Featured in the picture is my new mask, made by the talented Samantha Thompson.  It’s one of those that have an interior pocket into which an additional filter can be inserted.

I happened to be trying mine out when Jim asked me if I was ready to take the picture of the proof.  I decided to show off my new mask at the same time and discovered the bonus: I was no longer worried about the camera!

Funny…

Anyhow, I hope this finds all of you well, staying safe, protecting your packs.

Veering Off Target

March 25, 2020

Aftermath

Saturday afternoon Jim and I were out in the yard throwing atlatl darts, as one does on a lovely spring afternoon.  One of my shots hit the edge of the stacked hay bales we use as targets, veered right, went through a cedar tree and then through both sides of a five-gallon bucket we had set to catch rainwater under a gutter.

The bucket slowed the dart—yep, despite the darn things being taller than I am, the proper term for them is “dart”—thus preserving the thirty-two gallon trash can filled with water that was there.

So, good luck?  Bad luck? Raw chance?

How you choose to see it is up to you.  Or who you are, I suppose.  The bucket would say “bad luck.”  The trash can “good luck.”  The dart “raw chance.”

All I know is that I need to get another bucket…

Dealing with what I can is how I tend to function.  On that note, I’ve had a lot of queries as to how Jim and I are doing in these days of social isolation and such.

I’m happy to report that very little has changed.  I already work from home.  Jim is now retired, so not only doesn’t he need to go into work, he’s available to run what limited errands we need run.  This keeps asthmatic me one step away from random infection.

Certain things are slowing down.  Wolf’s Soul is to the stage where I need to review a print proof.  Since I use Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, needless to say, there’s a slowdown.  I’ll get the proof when I get it.  The e-book is pretty much completed, but I’m holding it so I can release both books at the same time.  This also enables me to make sure any errors I catch in the print version can be fixed, if necessary, in the e-book as well.

With the new e-book versions of the three “Breaking the Wall” novels out, and Wolf’s Soul as far along as I can take it for now, I’m moving my creative energies over to working on the yet untitled fourth novel in the “Star Kingdom” series I’ve been doing with David Weber.  I’ve been working on SK4 through all the rest, but much of that work has been in the form of research rather than actual prose.  My hope is to get prose written this week.

I may be writing longhand for a bit, because that’s often a good way to convince my brain to go sideways into a new universe and set of characters.  We’ll see.

I wish for you what I wish for myself: May you turn bad luck into good luck, and embrace what chance hands you.

Dynamic Dreaming

February 26, 2020

Four Issues Holding a Wide Variety of Hopes and Dreams

Like Gaheris Morris in my “Breaking the Wall” books, I have a secret life.  I’m not a member of a secret occult cabal (or if I am, I’m not quite ready to admit it), but I am part of something nearly as incredible: I’m the official Senior Advisor and Creative Consultant for DreamForge, a full-color, fully-illustrated magazine dedicated to just about every sort of SF/F fiction there is with one exception: No Unredeemable Dystopia.

How I came to my secret identity is a complicated story.  The short version is that when friends decide they’re going to do something impossible, incredible, and insane—but really, really cool—I think you have two choices.  You can stand aside and later regret not helping out.  Or you can leap up on that runaway stagecoach and do everything in your power to help keep it on the road.

I’m not rich enough to fully fund the magazine, so I did the next best thing.  I offered to do what I could to help out.  Part of that was helping them find quality writers and artists.  Part was contributing stories.  Part was offering a Kickstarter incentive. Part was simply giving Scot and Jane Noel, the creative team behind DreamForge, someone to run ideas by.

Working with DreamForge has been terrific and uplifting.  Now DreamForge is moving into its second year.  Once again, we’re doing a Kickstarter.  My incentive went before I could even mention it on a WW, as did that of Hugo Award-winning artist Elizabeth Leggett, but there are some very cool ones left.  DreamForge’s Kickstarter ends on March 7, and I want to encourage you to go take a look.

Now…  Here’s something for those of you who didn’t run away at the sniff of a Kickstarter…

If you wanted to read my Firekeeper short story, “A Question of Truth,” which appeared in DreamForge Issue Three, here’s a link.  If you like it, why not wander over to the Kickstarter and join into supporting the magazine?  Some of the incentives are embarrassingly reasonable.

Will you find any Jane Lindskold stories in the forthcoming issues of DreamForge?  In fact, you will.  My story “The Problem With Magic Rings” is scheduled for Issue 6.  It’s a sword and sorcery romp featuring the same unlikely band of heroes as in my short story, “A Familiar’s Predicament,” which appeared in Sword and Sorceress 33.

I’m going to stop here and hope you’ll at least go take a look at the Kickstarter for DreamForge year two.  The magazine is lovely, full-color, gorgeous, and, best of all, full of stories that fight against the darkness.

Breaking News! Breaking the Wall!

February 19, 2020

Three New Covers!

As I’ve been promising, there’s a sparkling new e-book reissue of my three “Breaking the Wall” novels: Thirteen Orphans, Nine Gates, and Five Odd Honors.  Read on to learn more about the series, extra content, and to get a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the cover design process.

First a word of reassurance…  Not into e-books?  Don’t worry.  Print copies are available at my newly revamped website bookstore.

The “Breaking the Wall” series was originally released from Tor Books starting in 2008 with Thirteen Orphans.  While Tor’s books were completely gorgeous, the new e-book covers better reflect the urban fantasy element of the series.

The new e-books each contain bonus content in the form of an essay about the “making of” the series.  These are expanded versions of pieces I wrote for Tor.com back in the day, with a lot more detail into my emotional journey as I wrote.

Never heard of the “Breaking the Wall” series?  Here’s the cover copy for the new edition of Thirteen Orphans.

A Dangerous Inheritance

Brenda Morris has no idea that her father, Gaheris, has a secret life.  He is the Rat: a key member of the curious cabal known as the Thirteen Orphans.  When she is nineteen, Brenda learns that all the omens show that Brenda will be his heir.

Brenda may inherit her place far sooner than anyone wishes.  Unseen enemies are stalking the Thirteen Orphans.  If Brenda does not join Pearl Bright, the Tiger, as she gathers the surviving Orphans to stand against their enemies, soon the Orphans—and their generations-long mission—will vanish, even from memory.

Bonus material includes an expanded version of the essay, “Why Thirteen Orphans?”

Interested?  You can find the new e-books at the following vendors:

Amazon: Thirteen Orphans, Nine Gates, Five Odd Honors.

Nook: Thirteen Orphans, Nine Gates, Five Odd Honors.

Kobo: Thirteen Orphans, Nine Gates, Five Odd Honors.

i-Tunes: Thirteen Orphans, Nine Gates, Five Odd Honors.

GooglePlay: Thirteen Orphans, Nine Gates, Five Odd Honors.

So, why the big change in the cover art?  It’s certainly not because the original art by Sam Weber wasn’t gorgeous, because it absolutely was.  However, over the years I’ve learned that these covers didn’t give most readers any idea that this series was urban fantasy.  The reviewers (who had the text in hand) caught on immediately, as this quote from Library Journal shows:

“This new series launch deftly mingles the fascination of the mah-jongg tiles and the animal lore of the Chinese Zodiac with a modern tale of discovery and danger.  This urban fantasy should appeal to fans of Charles de Lint and Jim Butcher.” Library Journal on Thirteen Orphans

When Jane Noel came on board as the new cover artist, I asked her to come up with covers that would say at a glance what sort of books these were.  First, she researched cover art associated with urban fantasy, and noted that they often emphasized the characters over the plot or setting.  With this in mind, she decided to feature one of the point-of-view characters, Brenda Morris, with one of the other key characters.

Jane Noel also decided that a series called “Breaking the Wall” should feature a wall appropriate to the book in question.  So, Thirteen Orphans has a zodiac wheel, reflecting the characters’ discovery of their relationship with one of the animals in the Chinese zodiac.  Nine Gates, which provides the first glimpse of the mysterious Lands Born from Smoke and Sacrifice, features a wall opening into the lands.  Five Odd Honors features a gate opening into…  Well, I’m not going to say too much, in case of spoilers.

The process of working with an artist who had read the books in the series several times was fascinating, showing me, once again, how the reader and author see the books in different ways.

So, there you have it…  Please let me know if you have any questions, and I’ll answer either in the Comments or in next week’s WW, depending on how much detail is needed.  Go on now: Break the Wall!

Backgrounds, Foundations

February 5, 2020

One of the Cards from the Exhibit

Last week my writing mostly focused on background work for various projects.  There now exists an updated and extensive list of characters from the first three Star Kingdom novels.  Cover copy has been written for the upcoming new releases of my three “Breaking the Wall” novels.  Stuff like that…

Then, this past weekend, as a change of pace, Jim and I went to see the Jim Henson exhibit at the Albuquerque Museum.  One of the pleasures for me in the exhibit was seeing how various projects and characters developed.  I’m not really a “making of” sort of viewer.  I’m the sort who wants to believe for those couple of hours that whatever place I’m viewing and the people who live in it are real.

However, seeing how Henson and his team brought script and characters together—especially how the process evolved over time, and as different collaborators became regulars in the team—was fascinating.  I found myself feeling better about the amount of background work I’d been doing for my own projects.

It also made me think about a comment Beverly Martin, one of the regular participants in my FF, had made about a book she was reading.  Let me quote her:

“It is kind of suffering from middle book syndrome – lots of words but little movement in the main plot. I get that they move on horseback, but does the story have to move at the same pace?”

Even as I understood her point, I found myself thinking about what it implied.  For one, there’s the question of “main plot.”  When I was a very young reader of the “Lord of the Rings” novels, my least favorite novel was The Two Towers, especially Frodo and Sam’s journey.  There were none of the clashing armies, none of the hints of romance, none of the moments of humor that livened not only the other two books in the series but the other major plotline.

Frodo, Sam, and Golem’s journey was a tale that moved not only “on horseback” but on foot, through the mud, up endless staircases, and, even worse, into increasingly thick bogs of distrust, suspicion, and even outright hatred and betrayal.

And, as an older reader, I realize that this is the most crucial part of the entire epic tale, without which not only the climax of the story, but also the concerns felt by the rest of the Fellowship and allies would seem groundless, shallow, and weak.

I’m not saying this is the case for the book Beverly is reading.  (If you want to know which one, you can look on the FF for last week.)  Sometimes writers do lose touch or reach a point where they are indulged because they can be counted on to sell a fair number of copies to loyal fans.

A friend of mine recently confessed that she wishes a writer whose work she used to love received more editing because she had found his more recent works “turgid.”

One thing I’ve learned is that the answer to what makes a book “slow” varies widely, not only from author to author, but from reader to reader.  The other day, I had a lively chat with a friend who is reading my Wolf’s Head, Wolf’s Heart for the first time.  He had numerous questions about the “societies” that are mentioned as a background element in the cultures of Hawk Haven and Bright Bay.  I could tell him a considerable amount that never made it to the page.

Almost every novel I’ve written, particularly if it belongs to a series, has a host of background material that may never make it onto the page.  If there’s a point where things seem to “slow down,” perhaps because I’m providing background material or seem to have strayed from the plot…  Well, maybe I haven’t strayed.  Maybe I know a little more about what the “main plot” is than a reader who may be misled by anything from jacket copy to what the characters themselves think is important.

Which brings us back to the behind the scenes elements of the Jim Henson exhibit.  A friend had enthused that Jareth and Sarah’s costumes from the iconic ballroom scene were on display.  I was certainly eager to see them.  In the end, while I appreciated the opportunity, I could have done without.

Gowns and jackets meant to be filmed, meant to be seen with perfect lighting picking up the highlights, may not look as wonderful on a dummy in a case.  I’ll take the illusion.  I’ll take the story.  But, y’know, I’d also take Jareth’s jacket!  (Or the wonderful silver pendant.)

And I’ll keep writing more material than the reader will ever see, because, just like the support rod that’s invisible but makes the puppet’s arm movements possible, so background that is only hinted at supports the rest of the story.