Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Dancing in the Rain

June 22, 2022
Lilies in the Rain

This week, the big news is we finally, finally, finally got RAIN!  It started on Friday, and has continued for several days, bringing along with the moisture lower temperatures, and, even better, for wildfire beleaguered New Mexico, a reduction in fire risk.

When Friday evening brought us the first of several possible storms, I headed out while it was still raining to start moving water out of the 32-gallon trash barrels under our downspouts to additional containers.  Yes.  It was dark. Yes.  It was wet.  But this was a cause for celebration.

Several subsequent storms have definitely brough rainfall at our house to up over an…  inch.  Yes.  You read that right.  Over one inch.  Not yet to even one and a quarter, although we have hope.

For all of you who are in flood zones or places that get a lot of rain, more than an inch of rain in one series of storms is a big deal for our area.  My part of New Mexico is classified as “high altitude grassland” because we “average” 7.5 inches of rain in a year.

That half of an inch is what keeps us from being classified as desert.  Lately we haven’t been getting it.  Jim and I have most of our yard mulched and landscaped with native plants, but even those have been suffering.   I’d been worried we were going to lose a couple of trees because we couldn’t give them enough water to help them deal with temperatures over a hundred, high winds, and no rain.

There are lots of songs that associate “rainy days,” and sad times, but let me tell you, that isn’t the case in New Mexico, especially in this year of record fires. 

Saturday night, we joined some very kind friends for a ballgame at our local minor league park.  The game was rain delayed, but I didn’t see a single sour face from the ticket takers getting drizzled on, to the littlest kid.  Instead, there was a definite party atmosphere.

So, with a feeling of celebration, I’m off to do my writing. 

Pretties and Interviews

June 15, 2022
Pretties for You

Last week saw the release of A New Clan, the fourth Star Kingdom/Stephanie Harrington novel, written by me and David Weber.  I’ve been asked a few times if I’ll be doing any book events, since I’ve had three books out in the last six months.

(The other two are Library of the Sapphire Wind and Aurora Borealis Bridge, two books in my new “Over Where” series.)

I’m happy to report that I will have a couple of book events out here in the wild west.  On July 17, 2022 at 2:00 p.m. I’ll be at  Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale, AZ.

August 20, 2022 at Noon will see me in Dallas, Texas, at Half Price Books (5803 E. NW Highway Dallas, TX 75321). 

August 26-28, 2022 will see me at Bubonicon in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

In addition to the books, there will be some nifty swag, including bookmarks, postcards, and buttons.

If you’re interested in hearing me talk about these new projects, I’ve done a few interviews.  The most recent is with Paul Semel, and you can read it here.  I’ve also done a few with the Baen Free Radio Hour.  Weber and I did a really long one, that should be posted any day now, although quite possibly in installments.

In person, I’m happy to sign books not specifically related to the event.  However, you might want to check with the bookstore in advance, as different stores have different policies related to bringing in material.

If you can’t make any of these events, feel free to post questions to the Comments.  There’s also Contact information on my website: www.janelindskold.com.  I do my best to answer promptly, but I’m sure you know what gets priority…

Yep.  That’s it.  Writing the next story! 

FF: Storm Breaks

June 10, 2022
Roary Plays Kaiju

Last week, I mentioned I was doing a lot of brainstorming.  This week, I’ve been turning that into prose.  Also, with the release of A New Clan, known to longtime readers of my WW and FF as SK4, the latest Star Kingdom / Stephanie Harrington novel, I’ve had lots of little jobs to do.

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.  And it’s also a great place to tell me what you’re reading. 

Completed:

The October Man by Ben Aaronovitch.  Audiobook.  Novella.  Listed as book 7.5 in the series, it’s a standalone set in Germany.

Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi.  The opening few pages are a downer for those of us who remember early 2020 all too well, but don’t worry, Jamie Gray won’t be dumped on the street in the midst of a building pandemic.

In Progress:

Solstice Wood by Patrician A. McKillip.  Contemporary fantasy, but with a tie to her novel not-contemporary novel Winter Rose.  I can see a re-read of that coming up when I can lay hands on a copy of Winter Rose.

False Value by Ben Aaronovitch.  Audiobook.  Peter Grant undercover… as Peter Grant.

Also:

Nettle and Bone by T. Kingfisher (aka Ursula Vernon), which I read as an advanced copy, is now out. Jim and I both very much enjoyed this tale of a young woman who goes after a prince who believes that abusing his wives is completely within his range of rights. Although marketed as a “dark fairytale,” it has a lot of Kingfisher’s weird and wonderful sense of humor as well.

Speaking of storms…  We’re having a very dry spring.  If any of you have surplus rain you can send, our garden would be grateful.

The Illusion of Productivity

June 8, 2022
Dandy Poses with Productivity

A week or so ago, a writer friend of mine said something about my having three books out in the last six months. 

“You’re so productive!  How can I ever live up to that?”

Since yesterday marked the release of A New Clan, my newest release, written in collaboration with David Weber, and the fourth novel in the Star Kingdom/Stephanie Harrington Honorverse series, I thought I’d pull back the curtain and show you just how it works that I have three books out in six months.

Our tale starts in 2017 when, on a wander through Albuquerque’s Old Town with Jim, we stop in an art gallery.  I ask the proprietor, who also happens to be one of the featured artists, about the stories behind some of her paintings, which feature ravens and hawks wearing various bits of gear.  I am astonished to learn she has no story.

I start wondering what story I might write.  Later, this merges with my desire to write a portal fantasy in which the protagonists will be older women, rather than people usually something younger than sixteen. 

In April 2017, I start writing this story.  Its title is Library of the Sapphire Wind.  By early October of 2017, I have 150,000 words.   Then I need to put it on side because I have other work to do.

Some of that involves getting my indie pub novel Asphodel on various sites for sale.

Some of it involves doing new e-book editions of the first six Firekeeper Saga.

Some of it involves writing Wolf’s Search and Wolf’s Soul, the new Firekeeper Saga novels.  These will keep me busy in various aspects until early 2020.

Some of it involves various short fiction writing projects.

In July of 2018, at Congregate in North Carolina, David Weber tells me that Baen Books is interested in new books in our Star Kingdom series. 

I tell him “great,” and get back to work on other projects.  Oh, and that October Jim will have his first knee replacement surgery.  He won’t be able to drive for at least six weeks, so all errands are on me. But I keep working…

Some of what I do is get backlist editions of Brother to Dragons, Companion to Owls, out.  Later on, I’ll also do backlist editions of all the “Breaking the Wall” novels, and both “Artemis Awakening” novels.

In July of 2019, Weber and I finally start working out the Star Kingdom novel mentioned a year earlier.  In September, we sign a contract for three new books.  Brainstorming and such happens, and in January of 2020, I start serious writing on what we call SK4, right up until it becomes A New Clan.

In August of 2020, I send SK4 to Weber.  That’s when I finally get back to…  Do you even remember it? My project from back in 2017, Library of the Sapphire Wind.  By the time I have finished reviewing it, expanding it, and such, the novel will have grown to the point that it needs to be two books: Library of the Sapphire Wind and Aurora Borealis Bridge.

Oh, and Jim is hospitalized with a cryptic infection in July 2020, and has another knee replacement surgery in September 2020.  And there’s this pandemic going on…

In March of 2021, I send Library of the Sapphire Wind and Aurora Borealis Bridge to Toni at Baen.  She accepts them in April of 2021.  Pretty much all my writer life for the rest of 2021 and into 2022 is spent working on these books, then on the final version of what is now being called A New Clan.

So, is it three books in six months?  Sure, as publication dates go, absolutely.  However, as my working life goes, it’s more like five books (remember Wolf’s Search and Wolf’s Soul), as well as some backlist stuff in five years, and a fair amount of short fiction.

Why did I go into all of this?  Because too often writers or artists or whatever get intimidated by other people’s perceived productivity.  Yes.  I work hard.  I work steadily.  But I don’t work sloppily fast or in a fashion that’s ridiculously productive.

Moreover, it’s highly unlikely I’ll have a book published in 2023, or if I do, it will be late in the year.  But I’ll be writing, and I’ll be working, because it’s the day-by-day writing, not the publications, that is the real life of a writer.

FF: While Brainstorming

June 3, 2022
Roary is Awake and Mildly Indignant

This last week, I’ve been doing a lot of brainstorming as I move into the second part of my current work in progress.  This also means I tend to read a lot, because it shuts up my forebrain while my hindbrain works.

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.  And it’s also a great place to tell me what you’re reading. 

Completed:

Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance by Lois McMaster Bujold.  Audiobook.  Spies, intrigue, and hints of romance in this sideline novel in her popular Barrayar setting/Vorkosigan saga.

By the Pricking of My Thumbs by Agatha Christie.  Re-read.  Tuppence and Tommy.

Lies Sleeping by Ben Aaronovitch.  Finally, a resolution to the Faceless Man, but not maybe what most will expect.

In Progress:

The October Man by Ben Aaronovitch.  Audiobook.  Novella.  Listed as book 7.5 in the series, it’s a standalone set in Germany.

Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi.  The opening few pages are a downer for those of us who remember early 2020 all too well, but don’t worry, Jamie Gray won’t be dumped on the street in the midst of a building pandemic.

Also:

A variety of magazine articles, including American Craft, passed along to me by a friend.  I also went through about two years of Jim’s old photography magazines, because I enjoy journeys into alien worlds.

FF: Hidden Value of Re-Reading

May 27, 2022
Mei-Ling Ponders a Riddle

As I have been re-reading Patricia A. McKillip’s “Riddle of the Stars” trilogy, I’ve been impressed by how early in  the novel she planted hints of the solution to the final riddle, hints I certainly missed the first time I read the book, but which make the books all the more satisfying.

Re-reading is often dismissed as “comfort” and “lower stress,” and I absolutely agree that I often re-read for this reason.  However, especially as a writer, it’s also a terrific way to study the art and craft of what I do.

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.  And it’s also a great place to tell me what you’re reading. 

Completed:

The Riddlemaster of Hed by Patricia A. McKillip.  Re-read.  First in the “Riddle of the Stars” fantasy trilogy.  A long-time favorite of mine.

Heir of Sea and Fire by Patricia A. McKillip.  Re-read.  Second in the “Riddle of the Stars” fantasy tribology.  McKillip made a daring move in this book, changing the POV character, and so expanding numerous elements while moving the story forward.

Harpist in the Wind by Patricia A. McKillip.  Final in the “Riddle of the Stars” fantasy trio logy.  A rich and ambitious novel, and a fine conclusion to the tale.

In Progress:

Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance by Lois McMaster Bujold.  Audiobook.  Spies, intrigue, and hints of romance in this sideline novel in her popular Barrayar setting/Vorkosigan saga.  Almost done.

By the Pricking of My Thumbs by Agatha Christie.  Re-read.  Tuppence and Tommy.

 Also:

A variety of short non-fiction.  As pandemic restrictions ease, Vogue returns to more photo spreads, but attempts to continue its socially aware material as well.  However, an article on knees shows that fashion’s obsession with unrealistic body goals continues.

A Least Favorite Job

May 18, 2022
Words Into Terrain

Last week, I promised to reveal what is one of my least favorite jobs as a writer.  It’s making maps.

You’d think that as a long-time gamer, I’d have mapping down to a science.  I mean, I’ve been gaming since I was not quite eighteen, and have been running games for almost as long.  But, nope.  It doesn’t work that way.  Lately, when our games need more detail, gamer Rowan (also cover artist for Asphodel) takes my rough drawing and starts gridding.  She’s amazing that way.

I have no trouble envisioning the terrain in which my stories are set.  I just don’t seem to be able to draw it.  For many stories, I don’t need a map.  Maybe I can access real maps of the locations involved, as I did for Child of a Rainless Year or Thirteen Orphans and the other “Breaking the Wall” novels.  Or maybe the focus is tight enough or on something other than moving through a landscape, so I don’t need a map.

Or maybe I can get away with a very general map, noting where locations are in relation to other locations.  That’s what I did with the early Firekeeper novels, although later I needed more detailed maps.

So, what do I do when I need a detailed map?  I turn to my husband, Jim.  As many of you already know, Jim’s an archeologist, and making maps is a part of his professional tool kit.  The maps he draws are very detailed, and even include elevations, which is definitely useful when the challenge of crossing a bit of terrain is part of the story.

When Jim needs to help me out, I start by giving him a verbal portrait of the landscape, including the rationale behind various terrain features.  This narration is often accompanied by a rough map by me, drawn not with images, but with words.  Jim then translates this into a sketch, which, in turn, often reveals to me additional ramifications of the terrain.

Sometimes these ramifications even become plot points.

We’re still roughing out the current map, but you can get a glimpse of Jim’s work, as well as the very little he has to work from, in the accompanying photo.

Now, off to do what I like doing far more than I like cartography.  Writing!

Gardener: ’Tain’t Whatcha Think

May 11, 2022
Chocolate Flowers

Monday morning, as I was out in our yard, preparing various containers for seeds while on stand-by in case Jim needed help as he set up our swamp cooler, I found myself thinking about the term “gardener,” as applied to writers.

As you may know, in this context, “gardener” is used as a synonym for what I prefer to call an “intuitive plotter,” but is often referred to by the inelegant term “pantser,” which in turn is short for “seat of the pants plotter,” (a term that in my opinion is only slightly better).

Whatever you call it, a gardener is a writer who does not outline in advance of writing, and may not seem to plan much in advance at all.

So, it was when I worked out my novels, Library of the Sapphire Wind and Aurora Borealis Bridge, which have been praised by award-winning reviewer Alan Robson, who noted that the story elements “have very significant roles to play in advancing the plot, and every time the plot advances the story exposes another intricate layer and we learn more and more about the way that the world of Over Where works. I’m astonished that Jane Lindskold managed to hold a structure as complicated as this one in her head while she was writing it, and I’m impressed at the skilful way in which the twists and turns reveal themselves so gradually and yet so inexorably.”  (Phoenixzine, May 2022)

By contrast, when I worked with David Weber on the forthcoming A New Clan, my natural tendency to not plan in advance had to be moderated by the need to work with another author.  In turn, Weber moderated his own desire to brainstorm in exhaustive detail to accommodate the fact that if I have it all figured out in advance, I feel the story is told, and am less enthusiastic.

Well, as I knelt there in my yard, stirring up dry soil, adding additional potting soil, soaking the planting medium in stages to make sure it was uniformly damp, and only then adding in the seeds—these spaced according to their specific needs, and those needs dictated by where that particular planter was going to be placed—I found myself thinking for the hundredth time how inappropriate the term “gardener” is for an intuitive plotter.

I wandered on at greater length about this subject here, so I’ll point you that way, and summarize.  (The first part of this other post is about our garden that particular year, but I suggest you read it, especially if you don’t garden yourself.)

Just as a gardener does not plant without acquiring a lot of advanced knowledge, so an intuitive plotter does not get ideas from some abstract ether.  A lot of work goes into preparing the “soil,” to learning about what the seeds need, to learning about the environment in which the plant or the story will grow.

A great example are the chocolate flowers featured in the photo above.  Jim and I like flowers, but we also like to work within the needs of our environment, which is hot, dry, and fairly brutal.  Chocolate flowers thrive in poor soil, without need for additional watering once they are established.  A bonus is that local birds love the seeds, so we not only get to watch the birds, they help spread the plants in our yard.

(The name “chocolate flower” comes from the scent of the flowers, which is not unlike bittersweet chocolate.)

So, for all you folks who think you can just zen your way into a story, without any foundation at all, remember, the planning goes in, whether before, after, or along the way, but one way or another, you’re going to need to do the work.

Speaking of which, I’m off to pull out scrap paper and work on one of my least favorite jobs…  Maybe I’ll talk about what that is next time.

Spring Brings

May 4, 2022
Mystery Lizard

We’re having a very dry spring here in our corner of New Mexico, but our little pond (128 gallons empty) is nonetheless home to a ridiculously large crop of tadpoles.

We also seem to have a new—to us, that is—type of lizard which has taken up residence in our yard.  It’s not either our two usual types: the blue whiptail and the fence lizard.  It’s featured in the picture above and I would love if anyone can help us out with figuring out the type.  It seems to have settled in on the west side of our yard, and even chosen a favorite basking rock.

Winds have been high, and temperatures all over the place, so other than a bit of transplanting, we haven’t yet put the garden in.  However, we’re getting ready.  I’ve started some tomatoes from seed.  We’re going to try two new, to us, varieties this year, both of which we acquired from Native Seed Search, and which are supposed to handle high temperatures well.

Now that the excitement (and considerable extra work) related to the releases of Library of the Sapphire Wind and Aurora Borealis Bridge only two months apart is ebbing, I’m segueing into more writing. 

Whenever I need to think, I wander outside, weed a little here, water a little there.  It’s definitely nice to have a chance to spend more time outside. Be well

Kids Are Alright, But…

April 27, 2022

New Books, New Podcasts

Several weeks ago, David Butler and I discussed Aurora Borealis Bridge, as well as wandering into a bunch of other topics, for Baen Free Radio.  The chat is now available on video or audio only.

Since Aurora Borealis Bridge is the second book in the Over Where series, there will be spoilers.  You might enjoy starting with our chat about Library of the Sapphire Wind which is also available on video or audio only.

The other day, a long-time friend commented that the Over Where books are not the only ones I’ve written where the protagonist is not a younger person.  Mira, the main character in Child of a Rainless Year, is in her early fifties.  What many readers, looking at the silver-haired me of these days, might not realize is that when I wrote Mira, I was actually in my early-forties.  I used my husband, Jim (who is ten years older than me), as a touchpoint for getting right what she would have had available to her as a kid.

My original plan for the “Breaking the Wall” books (Thirteen Orphans, Nine Gates, Five Odd Honors) was to have some of the older Orphans be the point of view characters.  Brenda Morris became a point of view character at the request of Tor’s Tom Doherty, who said he felt the Firekeeper readers expected me to be writing about a younger character.

In reality, writing about characters older than me was more common than not early in my writing career.  Older people can be much more interesting to write about.  They’ve had life experiences that go beyond first kiss or getting a date to the prom or first jobs or dealing with annoying parents and/or teachers…  Well, you get the point.

This is not to say that I don’t like writing about younger people.  I taught college English for a good number of years, and there’s nothing like reading freshman essays to give you a realistic appreciation of the mindset of people in their late teens and early twenties.  What I love the most is that on some topics, they can be as sophisticated as people much older than they are, while in others they are enchantingly naïve. 

For this reason, I resolved that the Over Where books would have competent characters in all age ranges, and that if someone made mistakes, it would not be because they were a “behind the times” senior or a “dumb kid.”  It would be because they were people, and people, no matter the age, level of education, or amount of life experience, are perfectly capable of making mistakes.

On that note, I’m going to wander on back to my writing, and see what my characters are getting up to now.